How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online

Keeping an eye on your kids as they play online can be a real challenge. Maybe you give your kids a device to free up time to get things done around the house. And although being productive is a good thing, an unsupervised child on the internet is not. So how do you draw the line between letting youngsters play online and watching them like a hawk with every click or tap?

Kids are tough to regulate online because of many competing factors: they’re curious, strongly independent and they don’t want to get in trouble. Because each kid’s a little different, families need to study how their kids are using the internet to understand what risks may be present when they’re online. And we’re here to help you understand how to get that done.

Open the Lines of Communication With Your Kids

Use your mutual interest in online exploration as an opportunity to grow closer to your kids. Before or after each internet session, make plans to have a personal “check-in” with your kids. Use that time to be sure you know how they’re doing and give them a chance to share with you fun details of what they’ve been up to online. From there, you can carefully navigate into other topics about their web surfing habits and explore areas that may require redirecting.

Add a New User to Your Computer

By partitioning the computer into separate accounts, you’ll be better able to track — and place limits on — their online access. Parental controls are likewise more customizeable when user profiles are in play. You’ll be able to limit entry into certain websites and can explore their history without having to sift through sites you’ve been to. Best of all, many of these settings can be protected with a password. Look up parental controls on your operating system and browser to explore these options.

What Can You Do to Protect Your Kids Online?

Sometimes, kids become vulnerable online when they start wandering away from where they’re supposed to be. If you find your children in an unsafe area online, use it as a teaching moment. Kids may not realize that what they’ve done is wrong — by explaining the issue in terms they can understand, you’ll find they’re more open to being safe. Here are a few other good ideas that can help to protect your kids when they’re online:

Get up to speed on internet risks to children

Educating yourself is key. The more you know about the digital world, the more you’re aware of what the risks are for kids. As you ramp up on ways to stay safe, keep a short list of things that you’ll want to discuss with your kids as they begin their online experience. Learn about what types of sites are safe and which ones are known to pose problems for kids — and study up on online etiquette — learning these basics is a great way to start.

Introduce kids to safe browsing by training them

Build healthy surfing habits by sitting down with your kids and sharing their online experience. Much like a driving coach, you’ll be able to provide pointers and explore their curiosity together. Instead of disengaging when they go online, focus with them and help them to explore safely. After you’ve got a feel for how they’re going to operate independently, allow them to surf solo for brief periods of time — but stay close and stay informed.

Set time and URL limits

Much like exploring a map and discussing areas that are too far away or too unsafe to go without a responsible adult, define online boundaries for your kids in terms they’ll understand. If they venture into a questionable area, use that again as an opportunity to connect and review the basics. Continue to monitor their use by setting rules on when and how long they’re allowed to spend time with their screens. This way they’ll learn the importance of moderation and develop interests in other things too.

Print out a list of rules that kids need to follow when online

Helping kids to understand your rules should be a key part of your instruction. Make sure they stick to your guidelines in order to foster a safer online experience. Here are some rules and guidelines to consider:

  • Computers and other devices can only be used in the public areas of your home.
  • No social media until after homework is finished.
  • Never give out personal information online like your phone number, address or current location.
  • Never meet in person with anyone you “met” online.
  • Always tell a trusted adult, such as a parent or a teacher, if something you see online makes you uncomfortable.
  • Do not download any software on your devices without checking with your parent  or guardian first.
  • Be open to communication with your parents or guardian about your online activity.

Monitor your kids' online activity

Leverage the browser history details to review where your kids are going online, and insist on their sharing emails and other communications with you from the start. They’ll be responsible for allowing you to access their instant and direct messaging or chat room interactions. And take time to be sure that the people your kids are chatting with are not strangers they’ve never met.

Online Resources for Online Safety

Ramping up into the ever-changing world of internet safety can be daunting, but here’s the good news: there are resources available to help demystify the process. Once you’ve made progress and start to see the benefits, you’re more likely to find a space where your kids are comfortable online — and you’re informed on what they’re doing.

Stay Safe Online

This National Cyber Security Alliance-sponsored website is a great place to review ways respond to ID theft attempts, fraud and other cybercrimes. It’s a great first stop to dig your heels in and get a handle on safety in the digital age.

Stop. Think. Connect.

Built out to support both kids and older students, Stop.Think.Connect. offers a large suite of online services, sponsored by the US Department of Homeland Security. They offer a wide array of educational materials that inform kids from K-8 all the way into their undergraduate years on ways to keep safe online — and what to look out for as well.

The internet can be a lot of fun and using it responsibly is easier than you might think, once you empower yourself with smart tools and resources. Encourage your kids to keep these safety tips in their back pocket and frequently review their online activities to help secure their online experience.

While you’re reviewing your kid’s internet safety measures be sure and carve out a little time to review your own. Check in with your American Family Insurance agent to learn how you can benefit from internet fraud protection. You’ll find real peace of mind with coverage that helps insulate your finances — and your family.

Related Topics: Family , Safety Tips