Teach Your Kids These 8 Internet Safety Lessons

Paige Omandam
Feb 6, 2018
Before the internet, parents had a much easier job of keeping their children safe. The safest place for a child to be was usually at home. With the invention of the internet, that became a different story. Even if a child is at home surfing the web, they can still be in danger of encountering online predators, scammers, viruses, and inappropriate content. While it can be tempting for parents to lock down every device that connects to the internet, the best way to keep children safe is to educate them and have a conversation about the do's and don'ts of the web. Since today is Safer Internet Day, there is no better time than now to sit down with your kids and teach them about internet safety! Here are some things every child should know about before surfing the web:

1. Information they should NEVER share online

Children and teens should never reveal this information to a stranger online:

• Full Name
• Phone Number
• Address
• Photo of themselves
• Name of the school they attend
• Information about a day or time they will be in a specific location
• Any of this information pertaining to their friends, family, or anyone else they know.

It's important to let them know the reason for why this information should be private. If this information got into the hands of someone dangerous, it can put them, their friends, and family in danger.

2. Password Security

Teach them early to create passwords that are easy for them to remember but difficult for hackers to decode. For example, have them turn their favorite food or cartoon character into a combination of numbers, symbols, and upper and lowercase letters. This will get them into the habit of creating strong passwords, which will come in handy when they make more important accounts in the future. It's also important to tell them not to share their passwords with anyone except their parents.

3. Age Requirements for Online Accounts

There is a dangerous trend of kids faking their age to create social media accounts for platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. More than 80% of kids ages 11-15 lie about their age to create social media accounts. This puts them at risk of being contacted by predators and being exposed to inappropriate content. Let them know that these accounts are privileges that they will earn when they reach the age requirement, just like how they have to be a certain age to see PG-13 movies or get a driver's permit.

4. Their Digital Footprint

Make them aware that whatever they post on the internet will possibly be there forever. This is most important for young teens on social media. Some colleges actually check on the social media pages of their applicants as well as 70% of employers. While they might not be thinking about a job or college while they are young teenagers, they should be mindful that anything they post could affect them in their future.

5. Scams & Spam

If they know the warning signs, they'll be less likely to click on suspicious links that could spread viruses to their (or your) computer. As soon as they get their first email address, they're bound to encounter spam in one way or another. An offer for a large sum of money or a free vacation might be tempting to a child who doesn't know better than to click on the suspicious link. If they ever get a suspicious email, they should be able to spot it right away before they click on any links or attachments. Some common traits of scam emails are urgent or threatening language, offers of easy money, or links to fake websites.

6. Logging In and Out of Devices

It might not occur to a child to log out of a device after they use it. Whether it's a phone, tablet, laptop or desktop, not logging out can put any data on the device at risk of being stolen. Just as you would teach them to close the door behind them, teach them to log out of their device after they are done. It's a simple precaution that keeps your devices secure and your information safe.

7. Anti-Virus Software

In case they ever do get a virus, it's helpful for them to know the warning signs and what to do in that situation. Teach them how to use anti-virus software like AVG, Norton, or McAfee, and to regularly scan their devices for viruses.

8. Communication is Key

There are countless programs that you can install on your child's computer that will monitor and filter their every move on the web, but the healthiest and most efficient way to keep them safe is to open up the conversation between you and your child about their internet activity. The internet isn't completely a scary place with predators lurking at every corner— it's also home to a world of information that your child can learn from. You don't want to scare your children into thinking that the internet is an all-around bad place; it should be a place for them to learn and connect in a positive way. The reality is you can't control what your children stumble upon on the internet, but you can give them the right advice on how to react to it. When you educate them at a young age, you give them tools that they can carry for the rest of their lives.

This Safer Internet Day, open up the conversation with the kids in your life. These tips will give them the knowledge to explore the internet mindfully and safely.

Written by Paige Omandam