Internet Safety for Kids
Written by: Hannah de Vries
The internet has opened a whole new world of exploration for kids. Although the internet is a great resource for finding information, playing games and connecting with family and friends, it is important to be aware of potential dangers and to keep children safe while they browse.
On the internet, children may come across inappropriate content such as graphic or upsetting images and videos. A child may be persuaded to share personal information with strangers or provide contact details after clicking on pop-up messages. They may also be subjected to cyberbullying as a victim or acting in ways that may hurt others. Additionally, given children’s young age and limited life experience, the “online” world and the real world often blend together, blurring the lines of reality.
To combat these online challenges, parents can use a variety of strategies to help ensure child safety while using the internet:
• Create a family media plan. A family media plan can help families navigate the digital world. Your plan can include details for screen-free areas and times, family expectations about children’s media experiences and programs and apps that are okay for your child to use. It’s best to create the family plan with your child and ask for their suggestions.
• Use child-friendly search engines.
Kiddle is a safe, visual search engine for kids powered by Google. Other examples include Kidtopia, GoGooligans, KidRex.
• Check that games, websites and T.V. programs are appropriate for your child. Look at the reviews on common sense media.
• Be a good role model. Limit your own media use and follow the rules on your family media plan.
• Use your devices’ safety features. Block in-app purchases and disable one-click payment options on your devices. Use parental controls and safe search settings on browsers, apps, etc. Make sure to check your privacy settings and location services as well. These features can typically be found under “settings” on your device.
• Use the internet with your child and make sure you are close by while your child is online. Show interest in what your child is doing by exploring the sites with them and asking them to show you how to play their online game.
• Educate your child. It is important for you to help your child identify unsuitable material. Name what to look for. For example, “Let me know if you see a site with scary pictures or bad words.” Also, help your child understand that they should not communicate with people online that they don’t know in person, especially in social virtual games.
• Build your child’s digital literacy by encouraging your child to question things they find on the internet. Help them recognize that not all content found online is true.
• Bookmark fun, safe and educational sites for your child for easy and approved access.
It is equally important for you and your child to trust each other. Maintain calm and open conversations about internet use. If your child feels trusted, they are more likely to talk to you about what they do online and the content they see. Try to talk openly rather than using surveillance apps. Remember, children will make mistakes using media and that is okay! Manage your child’s mistakes with empathy and use each mistake as a moment for teaching.
The internet can be wonderful for kids, but similar to other environments, it comes with risks. Help your children understand the dangers and use these tools to keep them safe online.