Threats to children’s internet safety include invasions of privacy, cyberbullying, sexting and harassment. Options to protect your children include parental controls, apps and tracking software. But the most effective way to keep your kids safe is to talk with them about online risks, how to avoid them and how they can come to you when something goes wrong.
Internet safety for kids depends on parents being aware of online risks and understanding how to help their children and teens avoid them.
Almost every American child and teen has access to the internet. They socialize in online games or on smartphones just as they would on a playground. They live largely in a digital community. But like any community, there are risks and dangers.
Parents are the best suited to monitor kids’ online activity. They are also the most trusted adults most kids will turn to if they experience online dangers. Understanding what your children or teens do online is vital to protecting them from digital threats.
How Children and Teens Get Online
Ninety-five percent of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45 percent of teens say they are online “almost constantly,” according to the Pew Research Center.
Even younger kids are accessing the internet in large numbers. Roughly two-thirds of fourth to eighth graders have access to phones or tablets. And almost half of them have a computer in their bedrooms, according to the 2016 Children’s Internet Usage Study conducted by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education.
Explaining Internet Safety to Your Kids
Teaching your children about the online risks they may face and how to avoid or report threats is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure their safety online.
But first, you have to understand those risks for yourself. This means keeping up-to-date on the latest technologies, apps and social media trends. It can be challenging, but it better prepares you to talk to your kids about what to expect online.
Online Dangers to Discuss with Your Kids
- Dangerous or inappropriate websites
- Malware and how it can be downloaded onto computers and phones
- Online frauds and scams
- Sexual predators
You’ll also need to keep an open dialog with your kids. Let them know you are looking out for their safety and be sure to listen to their questions and concerns.
An open conversation can help them feel comfortable talking with you even about uncomfortable things they later encounter online. It will also help you better understand how your children use the internet.
What Are Kids Doing Online?
30 percent have used the internet in ways their parents wouldn’t approve
21 percent have visited sites where they can chat with strangers
17 percent have visited porn sites
11 percent have visited sites that offer ways to cheat on homework
4 percent have visited online gambling sites
Source: Children’s Internet Usage Study, Center for Cyber Safety and Education