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Keeping Kids Safe Online

family with computer iconThe Internet is a wonderful place for learning and entertainment, but it can pose dangers if precautions are not taken. Allowing free access puts your child, your computer and your personal data at risk. Help to instill good judgment in your children by encouraging them to take some common sense steps.

Technology is constantly evolving. So are the risks associated with it. Protecting a child's online privacy, video games, texting, mobile phones, and cyberbullying are just a few of the concerns that adults have to contend with in this connected world. You can reduce these risks by talking to your kids about how they communicate — online and off — and encouraging them to think critically and act in a way they can be proud of.

A Few Tips

  • Remain positively engaged: Pay attention to and know the online environments your children use. Surf the Internet with them.
  • Support their good choices: Expand your children's online experience and their autonomy when developmentally appropriate, as they demonstrate competence in safe and secure online behavior and good decision making.
  • Keep a clean machine: Safety and security start with protecting all family computers with a security suite (anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall) that is set to update automatically.
  • Know the protection features of the websites and software your children use. But remember that your home isn't the only place they can go online.
  • Review privacy settings: Look at the privacy settings available on social networking sites, cell phones, and other social tools your children use.
  • Explain the implications: Help your children understand the public nature of the Internet and its risks as well as benefits. Be sure they know that any digital info they share, such as emails, photos, or videos, can easily be copied and pasted elsewhere, and is almost impossible to take back. Things that could damage their reputation, friendships, or future prospects should not be shared electronically.
  • Help them be good digital citizens: Remind your children to be good “digital friends” by respecting personal information of friends and family and not sharing anything about others that is potentially embarrassing or hurtful.
  • Empower your children to handle issues: Your children may deal with situations online such as bullying, unwanted contact, or hurtful comments. Work with them on strategies for when problems arise, such as talking to a trusted adult, not retaliating, calmly talking with the person, blocking the person, or filing a complaint. Agree on steps to take if the strategy fails.

More Ways to Keep Your Children Safer and More Secure Online

  • Keep your home computer in a central and open location: If your computer is in the open, you can physically monitor your children while they are online.
  • Be aware of all the ways people connect to the Internet: Young people have many options to connect to the Internet beyond a home computer. Phones, tablets, gaming systems and even TVs have become connected.
  • Talk to other parents: When and how you decide to let your children use the Internet is a personal parenting decision. Knowing what other parents are thinking and allowing their children to do is important and can be helpful for making decisions about what your children do online.
  • Know the rules: Not all online services are for kids. Even some of the most popular social networking services and other sites are meant only for use by people 13 and older.
  • Stay current. Keep pace with new ways to stay safe online: The online world is ever changing.
  • Consider separate accounts on your computer: Most operating systems allow you to create a different account for each user. Separate accounts can lessen the chance that your child might accidentally access, modify, change settings and/or delete your files.

For Emergencies

  • If you know of a child in immediate risk or danger, call law enforcement right away. Report instances of online child exploitation to the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children's Cyber Tipline. Reports may be made 24-hours a day, 7 days per week at CyberTipline or by calling 1-800-843-5678.

Additional tips on how to keep kids safe online