The Complete Guide to Explaining Internet Safety to a Child

10 min read by Bogdi

published un an în urmă, updated 5 luni în urmă

The internet allows us to have the entire world at our fingertips with just a simple click of the button.  Technology is amazing and has provided many opportunities to our country, but it has also offered a lot of grief and heartache.  The internet is an extremely powerful tool that needs to be used as such.  This includes teaching children both the amazing things it can do and the dangers it can pose.

When teaching children about internet safety, it is important that you not use scare tactics.  You want to ensure your children understand the proper uses for the internet and how to keep themselves safe.  It is also important to maintain open lines of communication so they will come to you if they find themselves in a compromising online situation. It is easy to tell kids to be careful on the internet. However, teaching etiquette and safety is much more involved.

In this article, you will not only learn the best ways to teach your children how to stay safe on the internet, but you will also find resources to help.

What is Internet Safety?

When thinking about internet safety, there is a good chance it is interpreted in different ways.  Internet safety for an adult is likely going to look a bit different than internet safety for a child.  In a nutshell, internet safety can keep you both physically and emotionally safe when using the internet.

Physical internet safety is something that you may not think about when logging into the internet. There are location capabilities on almost every electronic device.  Because of this, anyone can track down where you are using the device.  This can pose a dangerous situation.

Emotional internet safety is one of the most critical things you need to understand.  There are so many different things you can be exposed to online that it may be difficult to process them.  This is challenging for adults, but especially children.

Hopefully, teaching internet safety will ensure that your child is safe both physically and emotionally while they are online.

Teaching Internet Safety

We know how dangerous the internet can be, and we also know that as parents or caregivers, we have a responsibility to ensure that our children are kept safe.  While this may sound quite simple, it is much more complicated than that.  You cannot just lecture your kids about the internet, and you need to show them how to use it safely.  The adage "More is caught than taught" is true when it comes to internet safety.

As we all know, kids will be kids, and they can find themselves in a compromising position online even with the best training.  The internet is an immense resource that is full of hidden dangers.  It is important to remember this when you are teaching your children internet safety. You cannot blame yourself if they accidentally click on something, but you can support them through the mistake and make it a learning experience.

What Do You Need to Know?

The internet is something that you cannot just read a book and learn all about it.  It is essentially changing by the moment with both information and hidden dangers.  Although it may seem overwhelming, there are some things you need to keep in mind as you are helping to teach your children about exploring the internet.

  • Understand it yourself.
  • Do not wait.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Set rules.
  • Lead by example
  • Supervision
  • Teach appropriate interactions.
  • Build trust.
  • Maintain access to the device.

Understand the Internet Yourself

One of the single most important things you can do when teaching your child about internet safety is to have a firm understanding of it yourself.  Yes, you likely know how to navigate searches, and you have likely heard tell of some sites that may not be appropriate, but you need to teach your child to navigate away from these dangers.

Often, parents are somewhat in the dark when it comes to the internet and what is available at their children's fingertips—because of this, taking time to canvass some of the sites and interests your child may have will be helpful to your understanding. It is also important that you understand the types of dangers that are out there. Believe it or not, the danger is not just chatting with a stranger.

Cyber-Bullying

Much like in-person bullying, the same thing can happen online.  Online bullying can be significantly worse because the internet is readily available, and children cannot escape their bully-like they may be able to in person. (Source: stopbullying.gov)

Cyber-Stalking

Cyberstalking is like bullying, but it is something that can escalate rapidly.  Typically, this comes in the form of hurtful comments that begin to escalate.  This is typically done by someone the victim knows, so it may seem harmless at the beginning. (Source: Tripwire)

Malware

This is extremely dangerous for both children and adults alike.  Hackers use malware to access your personal information.  Not only can they gather your personal information, but they can also put viruses onto your devices. This is typically in the form of links in websites or sent via messenger and e-mail. (Source: csoonline)

Obscenity

Obscenity can come in many different forms.  Usually, we think of images being obscene. However, it can come in language and text as well.  This is something that you must be aware of when looking at music and videos.  You will also see this in pop-ups from time to time.

Over Sharing

Most kids love to talk and interact with one another.  A risk that students in an online setting can face is oversharing.  They may not think about the information they are sharing, but it could be a dangerous situation if the wrong person is listening.

As you can see, several dangers are lurking beneath the surface of the internet that you need to be aware of before educating your child on internet safety.  Although we can be well versed in the dangers that exist, there is always room for error. Individuals who want to inflict harm are usually stealthy and have undetectable ways of gaining access and information.

Internet Safety Classes for Parents

Because the internet plays such a large role in our day-to-day routines, some people have made it their mission to help support parents and caregivers regarding internet safety.  If you are not quite sure where to start or have hesitation regarding protecting your children, it would be wise to see support from an expert.

Before jumping into a class, you can also take an online cybersecurity quiz with your children. Not only will you be learning about internet safety, but you will also have fun doing it. The website youaresafe.online is full of tips and tricks you can use to ensure internet exploration remains a safe activity in your home.

You will also likely find several safety seminars that you can take both online and in person. If you are struggling with resources to help you, reach out to the school media specialist or local law enforcement.  Either of these places will likely be able to point you in the right direction.

Do not Wait.

It is human nature to take the wait-and-see approach with several situations.  When it comes to keeping your children safe on the internet, you cannot take this approach. The more proactive you are with internet safety, the better chance you have of keeping your child safe.

While we want to protect our children from the ferocity of the world if we can, the truth is that internet safety conversations can and should begin quite young.  Of course, you will want to adjust your delivery depending on the age of the child.  It is important to have conversations before something dangerous happens, and likely leaves your child in a compromised situation.

The Consumer Federal Trade Commission recommends you begin talking to your children about internet safety as soon as they can access a device that you can use to access the internet.  Children as young as two can use their parent's phones or tablets to access the internet. While they may not be tech-savvy like older children, it is important to remember that they are putting themselves into a potentially dangerous situation every time they access the internet.

Tell the Truth.

Being honest with your children about the internet and the safety hazards it can present is important. Sheltering children from the truth is something that many parents frequently do.  While this may be okay in certain circumstances, internet safety is not one of them.  Remember, you do not need to detail the dangers, but you should touch on the areas highlighted in the table.

By bringing awareness to your child about these dangers, you provide them with something to be aware of when they are online.  When you provide your children with knowledge of lurking dangers, they are more likely to have a heightened sense of awareness.

Set Rules

Before your children even begin to access the internet, you need to set rules and expectations for them. Not only do you need to set these expectations, but you need to also follow through with them.  Consistency is key when protecting your children when they are online.

  1. Never give your personal information.  This includes your name, address, phone number, the school you attend, sports you play, activities you are involved in, or trips you plan to take.
  2. Do not post photos of yourself or trade photos with others.
  3. Use a fake screen name that cannot connect to your real identity.
  4. Never give your password to anyone (except for parents)
  5. Do not set up in-person meetings with anyone you meet online.
  6. Tell your parents or a trusted adult if you are ever uncomfortable while online.

The above rules are standard rules and expectations that should be set and discussed with your children before they eve venture online by themselves or with friends.

(source: Kids Health)

Lead by Example

Your children are watching every move you make, which includes the way you behave when online.  If you want your children to respect the rules you have set for technology, you, too, need to abide by the rules as well.

Supervision

You must be vigilant when it comes to monitoring your children on their devices.  Vigilance does not mean just poking your head in the room to see what they are doing.  It means you are tracking what they are doing online, and you have parental controls and safeguards in place to help when you are not there.

In-Person Supervision

For children under the age of 5, you should be supervising all interactions with a device that connects to the internet.  This is especially important because they are unable to determine what is safe and unsafe when online.

Remote Supervision

Unfortunately, you cannot always be by your child’s side when they are using devices, especially if they are older and not always at home when using a device.  Because of this, you need to make sure you enlist the help of remote monitoring resources.

When looking at monitoring devices, you will find some that are secretive and some that your child sees. The decision of which option to use is yours and should be determined based on your child's age and needs. Some of the most well-known monitoring apps are:

  • Bark
  • mSpy
  • Norton LifeLock
  • Circle
  • McAfee

Each of these applications will allow you to remotely monitor what your child is accessing and even block sites that you do not desire them to visit.  When choosing a monitoring system, you need to make sure it is user-friendly and that it is going to serve the purpose of blocking undesirable sites. This also allows you to see what sites your child is frequently visiting.

(Source: PC Mag)

Teach Appropriate Interactions

It is not enough to tell your children what they should and should not do or how they should communicate with others.  It would be best if you showed them what appropriate interactions are when online actively.  This is a great time to explain how easy it is to fall into the trap of cyber-bullying or cyber-stalking.  While your child may not take the role of bully, they may fall victim to a bully.

When teaching children about interactions online, it is important to explain to your children that anytime someone tries to engage them in a back-and-forth conversation with a threat or by making fun of them or someone else, they need to do three things:

  1. Ignore it:  bullies typically want a reaction, so you should not give it to them.
  2. Do not comment back, even if you are trying to be kind.  This can fuel the bully.
  3. Tell a trusted adult that inappropriate interactions are occurring.

Those three things will not necessarily stop a cyber-bully; however, they will help keep your child safe when they are online.

Build Trust

One of the most foundational things you can do to protect your child online is to build trust with them.  When your child trusts you, they will be more likely to come to you when they feel they are in a dangerous situation.  If your child comes to you for support, you need to remember these things:

Remain calm when your child comes to you.  They may very well be exploring a site or chatting with someone they aren't supposed to, but you need to keep your cool.  If you explode with frustration over their online choice, they are less likely to come to you for help at a future date.

Get the details when your child comes to you.  Find out everything you can about the site, conversation, and information that they may have shared.

Act. Determine what needs to be done to ensure your child is kept safe in the situation. This may mean blocking features on the site, deleting accounts, or even contacting authorities if you think your child is in danger.

No matter what you do, it would be best if you praised your child for coming to you for help.  It is difficult to admit when something is wrong, and this shows your child trusts you.  If you maintain this trust, they are much more likely to come to you for help and support.

Maintain Access to The Device

You must maintain control of the devices your children are using.  This does not mean just looking at them and blocking a few sites or setting rules.  When you have access to your child's device, you need to:

  • Frequently for sites visited and people communicated with
  • Ask questions about communication or activities online.
  • Keep the device at night and dinner.
  • Know all the passwords.

To some, these may seem like invasive expectations that your children will grow to resent.  The good news is that if you begin with expectations like this, your child will understand why you are doing it and are likely to respect the rules.  It is important that they understand you are doing this to protect them.

Final Thoughts

Protecting your children online is no small task, and it requires both consistency and vigilance on your part.  While you cannot protect your child from everything online, there is a good chance that you can protect them from a lot if you put effort into it.  Please familiarize yourself with questionable sites for kids and make sure they do not have access to them.  Also, spend time communicating safety rules and expectations to your children to keep them online and safe.

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