15 Safe Browsing Techniques Every Parent Should Know

13 min read by Bogdi

published un an în urmă, updated 5 luni în urmă

Internet safety is a hot topic these days. With all the scary stories in the news and on social media, it's no wonder that parents want to know how they can keep their kids safe online. The internet is a great resource when used in the right way, but it can lead to some pretty dangerous places if you aren't careful.

There are so many dangers out there that can come from the internet. No one wants their child exposed to cyberbullying, sexting, or identity theft. The best way to keep your kid safe is by teaching them what they should be aware of when they are online. In this post, we'll discuss 15 tips for safe internet browsing for children and families.

What is Safe Internet Browsing?

Safe internet browsing involves using some common sense and being aware of the dangers of browsing online. This is true for both children and adults.

Many people have lost money and their identities because they were not careful when browsing the internet. They clicked on a link or opened a file that was infected with malicious software. For children, the dangers can be much worse.

Risks Children Face with Internet Browsing

As adults, we know what is risky behavior and can take steps to avoid it, but children are not always aware of the dangers. When they encounter harmful content online, it can cause problems in their lives such as bullying, sexual exploitation, and fraud.

According to GuardChild, 70% of kids ages 8 to 18 have accidentally accessed online pornography, usually while doing research for a homework assignment. They innocently entered a search term that led them to an inappropriate website.

Additionally, cyberbullying has affected 65% of kids ages 8 to 14 years old. Sadly, only 15% of parents seem to be aware of their child’s online social media habits and how behavior on social networking platforms can lead to cyberbullying. Only 7% of parents even know that their child has received texts or emails that made them uncomfortable.

These statistics are alarming, and they only scratch the tip of the iceberg. Suffice it to say that kids are interacting with the web in very unhealthy and dangerous ways, and many adults have no idea.

Benefits of Teaching Safe Browsing Techniques

The best thing we can do for our children is teach them about safe internet use when they are young. Three good reasons for your kids to learn about and practice web browsing safety are:

  • to protect them from cyberbullying, sexting, and sexual predators
  • to prevent identity theft, phishing scams, malware infections
  • to keep them focused on schoolwork instead of social media or games all day long

15 Safe Browsing Techniques

So, what can parents do to keep their children safe online? Here are 15 tips and techniques to help you teach your kids to be careful and alert when browsing.

Choose a Secure Browser

Safe browsing starts with choosing a secure, trustable browser like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Opera. By using one of these browsers, your children will be using a secure browsing environment that is less likely to have malicious software.

The benefits are worthwhile; these platforms are more user-friendly, and they often come with parental controls to keep children from visiting questionable sites or downloading unsafe files. You can usually block out ads with these controls as well.

The safest browser is the one that you use on your computer when conducting searches online.  Be sure to disable any autofill function, where possible, so hackers can't steal confidential data just by typing in a few keystrokes.

There are plenty of secure browsers out there to choose from. Beyond your computer, you can also find them in the Google Play Store or App Store for iOS. Here is an extensive list of browsers you may want to check out before committing to a particular browser:

  • Firefox is a well-known browser that’s been around a while. It can let you know if your data has been compromised in a company breach, which has become a common occurrence.
  • Tor is free, open-source software and an anonymous way to surf the internet. It’s a very secure browser for Android devices, iPhones, and iPads.
  • Brave is a good choice for blocking ads that snatch and track your data. It’s also much faster than other well-known browsers like Chrome or Firefox.
  • Epic sends all internet searches through a proxy server that automatically handles cookies and tracking software. Your browsing history is wiped out after each use too.
  • Chrome updates itself every six weeks, which gives you the most current safety features. It does an excellent job at protecting users from malicious sites that could try to steal your password.
  • Vivaldi doesn’t keep your web search history, cookies, or temp files if you use a private window when browsing.
  • Opera’s benefits include a free VPN that reduces tracking and blocks ads. Plus, you can sync your data across all devices for extra security.

Put the Computer in a Common Living Space

For years, this has been one of the go-to tips for keeping kids safe online, and you’ll still see it at the top of most lists when it comes to keeping kids safe. Back in the day, when families only had one computer in the house, putting it in a common area made sense. If your children are young, it’s still an effective way to monitor their time on the internet.

If you have a family computer, keep it in a shared living space like the family room or kitchen instead of in a child's bedroom. Children who have their own bedroom with a computer are more likely to access inappropriate sites than children who use the computer in a communal living area.

Nowadays, most people use their computers for work or school purposes as well as entertainment such as playing games, social media networking sites like Facebook, and watching Netflix. This means that many adults will need access to the internet as well. By putting the technology in a common area, the computer is still available to other family members and can't be accessed by kids after bedtime.

In addition, bedrooms can become "electronic dens" where kids spend hours on the computer, watching TV, and playing video games instead of sleeping well at night. They also isolate themselves from family members when they do this.

Stay Mindful of Mobile Internet Access

However, with the explosive growth of personal devices, parents can no longer rely on this technique to keep a child safe. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, nearly 50% of teenagers can access the internet from their phones. So parents must be more intentional and creative about ways to monitor their child’s internet activity.

In short, locate the family computer in a shared living space, but also be aware of other ways and places that your child can go online outside of your control.

Install Parental Controls

Put parental control software on all your children’s devices, including their cell phones and personal computers and laptops. This will allow your child to only go onto sites you've approved and block specific apps when they're not permitted.

This kind of software can be an initial barrier to accessing bad sites for a lot of kids. When used in conjunction with open and honest communication with your child about its purpose, parental controls can be an effective means of helping you keep your child’s internet experience safe.

According to Common Sense Media, there are different levels of parental controls you can choose from. Which one you go with depends on how much or how little you want to restrict your child’s access to the internet and how much time you want to spend dealing with tech issues at home. Typical parental control programs can:

  • Block websites
  • Block websites and filter content
  • Block, filter, and also set time limits and provide a visual on what they see online
  • Monitor their cell phone
  • Track a child’s location
  • Do it all: manage the home network and all attached devices, limit screen time, filter content, and control the home Wi-Fi at all times

Monitor Children Who Circumvent Parental Controls

However, parental controls aren’t foolproof. Savvy kids can find workarounds to these controls just by searching online for instructions. Some parental control software can be set up to provide notifications when the controls are breached.

If you choose to go with parental control software, just know that your kid could be one of those who figure out how to circumvent the system. Keep an eye out for these red flags that mean this might be the case:

  • Significantly fewer notifications of internet activity and access by your child
  • Activity or data usage on your Wi-Fi network after it’s turned off

If you think your child is bypassing the controls, it’s time for a chat with your kid and more close monitoring. They could be getting around the controls themselves or using a friend’s device to access the internet.

Open the Lines of Communication

Hopefully, you and your child already have good lines of open and honest communication in place. If you do, this tip will be easy. If you don’t, it may take more effort and some time to establish that trust.

Start when they are young and begin to discuss what is appropriate content versus inappropriate content before a child is exposed to it. Ask questions to prompt conversations. Have your child talk with you about any inappropriate content they come across so you can provide guidance on what is appropriate, what isn't, and how to handle it.

Monitor and Limit Your Child’s Internet Usage

We’ve already mentioned installing parental controls on your kids’ devices. That is definitely an excellent place to start, but you can’t stop there. Relying on technology to protect your child from dangers online is only as good as the software and your child’s willingness to accept its oversight.

Nothing beats a parent who knows what their kids are doing as well as when and where they are going online. Be in the same room with them, but more than that, be actively involved when your child is online. It’s okay to look over their shoulder to see what they’re doing.

Join them when they watch a movie or play a game. Ask about websites they are visiting or using. This gives you the chance to steer them to better sites or talk about why a site is not a good choice.

By creating a routine time or setting a timer for a certain length of computer time, you can restrict the amount of time kids spend online. If they go online outside of those designated times, you’ll be able to see that with the history settings on their laptop.

Educate Yourself and Your Child

It’s hard to fight against something you know very little about. That’s why it’s essential to educate yourself about cybersecurity threats so you can help protect your family's devices against malware, phishing scams, and other online dangers.

Many school systems offer workshops on internet safety and make these available to parents and the school community as well as to their staff. There are also tons of websites that address the topic and provide fun and engaging ways for kids and adults to learn how to stay safe online.

Online Resources

You Are Safe Online offers a great interactive cyber-security quiz that gives kids a chance to test their knowledge about online safety. It asks questions about creating passwords and what some standard technology terms like viruses, phishing, scamming, and data mean. It gives parents a lot of valuable information about keeping kids safe online.

A few other websites for internet safety training are listed below. Some are designed to be a fun way for kids to learn. Others are geared more towards informing parents about ways to actively guide their children online:

There are literally hundreds of these websites so do some searching to find a few that appeal to your child and teach what you want your kids to learn.

Install Antivirus Software and Ad-Blockers

A quality antivirus software provides your home network and any attached devices with a firewall that protects against viruses, malware, and spyware. Some can also help manage passwords and notify you if any personal information has been found on the dark web.

An ad-blocker stops advertisements that track your family’s browsing habits. With a blocker, you should get a lot fewer (hopefully none!) targeted ads that try to sell you something you’ve been browsing for.

Sometimes online ads can show questionable pictures and content, so a blocker will prevent your child or teen from being exposed to these invasive and constant ads.

Use a VPN

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and it is designed to extend a private network onto a public network. This lets the user send and receive data as though they were directly connected to the private network.

Using a VPN masks the IP address of your device by sending it through a secondary IP, which foils the ability of hackers to see and steal your data. VPNs can be installed on any device, including cell phones.

Some antivirus software includes a VPN as part of its security features. If yours does, follow the instructions to add a VPN to all the devices in your family. Avoid using a free VPN since these companies make money from selling off the data they collect—the data you’re actually trying to protect.

Create Strong Passwords

Strong passwords are one of the best things you can do to help you and your family browse safely online. For starters, it’s imperative that you change the default password on your router and home Wi-Fi. Once you do this, you won’t have to fool with it again. Just be sure to write down the new password you create and store it in a secure location.

Make sure you have strong passwords on all your accounts so no one can get access to them without permission. Show your children how to create strong passwords when setting up online accounts for games or social media.

Tip: Have your child use a different password for every account. If needed, write them down and store them in a handy and secure location.

Should I Know My Child’s Online Passwords?

While we’re on the subject of passwords, here’s a special note for parents. It is okay for you to know your child’s, even your teenager’s, log-in information for any online accounts, including their social media apps.

It is perfectly acceptable for you to access and check these accounts regularly. This will help you see what they’re doing online and uncover any problems or concerns before they cause your child harm. No, your teen might not like it and may push back, but no one ever said parenting was an easy job, did they?

Keep Personal Information Private

Personal Identifying Information (also known as PII) is any data that lets others know who your child is. PII includes the obvious things like name, address, and date of birth. But it can also be other tidbits about your child that may not seem as revealing:

  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Names of friends
  • Where they go to school
  • Photos or videos posted online
  • Usernames and passwords for games and educational sites accounts

Repeat the following to your children constantly; hopefully, they will get it after the millionth time:

  • NEVER EVER give out ANY personal information like your name, address, phone number, or birthday when asked by someone online whom you don't know.
  • NEVER share passwords with others or post them on social media networks.
  • Do NOT post compromising photos of yourself online….ever.
  • What goes on the web stays on the web FOREVER! Anything you post can be found by anyone from now on, and it probably will be.

A Practical Tip for Keeping Info Private

For any device, app, or website your child uses, set up strict privacy preferences. Go to the Settings area marked “privacy” to turn off things like location sharing or automatic posting by an app.

Only Click if You’re Sure

Anything and everything is just a click away these days. Sites often try to trick kids with glittery pop-ups or promises of free stuff if they click. Teach children to read the fine print before clicking on a link and to be aware of what personal information is being requested.

For young children, it’s a good idea to emphasize that they should not click on any link before asking permission.

They should never click on links in emails from unknown sources or open attachments without checking with an adult first. All it takes is one wrong click, and their data is snatched away, or malware is attached to their device.

Add Two-Factor Authentication to Accounts

Two-factor authentication, or TFA, provides an extra layer of security to any account where it’s enabled. You’ll be notified if someone tries to access an account (financial, social media, retail store apps, and such), and the intruder will be thwarted from logging in.

With kids having game and social media accounts, TFA can give you some peace of mind knowing that their online browsing activity isn’t likely to compromise their accounts or yours.

Block In-App Purchases

Recently, a kid intentionally ordered $400 of fast food on his mom’s phone through an app, and the mom was initially not pleased to learn her child had hijacked her phone like that. This time it was only food, but the next browse could have lead to something more harmful and sinister.

App purchases can be a serious issue for parents. Apps that charge for in-app purchases are often free, and children can access and download them without their parent's knowledge with just one tap on the screen. Not only might you get unwanted or inappropriate items, but this activity can also expose your personal and financial information to the wrong website or app.

To make sure your children don’t buy something they shouldn’t, take a minute to block in-app purchases by using parental controls or password protection on your phone or tablet or your child’s device, so you know what they're doing all the time.

Create a List of Acceptable Websites

For younger children and tweens, create a list of websites your children can visit for educational purposes, such as Khan Academy or Wikipedia. Here are a few more sites that offer fantastic resources when children are doing homework. (This is by no means an exhaustive list.)

There are also several kid-friendly search engines that should be added to your bank of acceptable websites. These offer your children a safe environment full of information for school work and personal reading:

Identifying Fake Websites

Most importantly, you want to teach children and teens about staying away from sites or links which might lead them into dangerous situations. They need to learn to be skeptical of things that seem too good to be true.

Fake news is a hot buzzword right now, and children should learn how to spot fake news sites. Schools should teach this (and many do), but it’s a good idea to reinforce the concept at home. One website often used as an example of how fake news sites look real is the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.

As kids are browsing, teach them to ask these questions:

  • Is this site or information current? What is the date of the last update?
  • Is the info relevant to what I’m looking for?
  • Who wrote it? Do they know what they are talking about?
  • Is the information accurate? Suggest fact-checking at a couple of other websites to confirm.
  • Why was this site written? What is its purpose? To sell something, to inform, to entertain, or to persuade?

Use Caution on Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is more and more common these days. You’ll find it in coffee shops, airports, hotels, and retail stores. Children and many teens and adults are not aware that public Wi-Fi isn’t secure. Any data or information sent over these networks can easily be intercepted by hackers.

It’s not practical to tell children to never use public Wi-Fi. It’s available and usually free, so kids think, “Why not?” A better solution is to teach children—teens, especially—to use caution when jumping onto a public Wi-Fi network.

Due to the lack of security on public Wi-Fi, tell your kids to never access sensitive information like bank accounts or personal identity information or to change passwords on any accounts. They should wait until they are on a secure network or at home.

Final Thoughts

Helping children be safe online is a daunting task, but it’s not impossible. With the right tools and strategies in place, you can help your kids navigate the internet and social media safely without limiting their ability to have fun or explore. Hopefully, this article has helped inspire you to think about how you might approach this topic with your child.

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