Experts Give Parents Tips on Internet Safety for Kids and Teens

Woman pointing at the board showing internet safety for children icon
Read a summary of the article here!
Tips to Keep Your Child Safer On the Internet - A Quick Summary

Research shows that 95% of teens (aged 13-17) have access to a smartphone, tablet, or computer in their bedroom. Experts say it’s likely your kids are signing up for social media accounts without you knowing. Here are some tips for internet safety for kids:

  1. Talk to your child about the risks of being online.
  2. Set boundaries, rules, or even design a tech agreement.
  3. See it from your kid’s perspective: talk to them about what they do online, in a fun way.
  4. Set parental controls on all devices, apps, and websites.
  5.  Use a family security app to track all activity across devices.
  6. Install antivirus and a VPN on your computer and update them regularly.
  7. Talk to your child’s school and find out apps and learning systems they are using, and what they are teaching about internet safety for kids.
  8. Be a positive example of online behavior for your kids.

We recommend using a robust VPN to hide your location from digital threats, especially if your kids use different devices to get online. NordVPN works flawlessly on mobile devices and computers, so it’s a fantastic choice.

For a more detailed guide on the risks and ways to keep your kids safe online, keep reading below!

According to the PEW Research Center, 95% of teens (ages 13-17) have access to a smartphone. Furthermore, 45% of teens say they are online almost constantly. In the wild west of the internet, how do parents handle internet safety for kids? How do you protect them from online risks like predators, identity theft, or scams when you can barely keep up with new technology yourself? You are not alone. To give parents a better understanding, we interviewed international cybersecurity experts. Our experts give important advice on how parents can keep their children safe online at home and in school.

How Kids Get Online

Understanding how your kids get online is the first layer of internet safety for kids. They may be on social media or using apps without you even realizing it. Children grades 4-8 spend over two hours a day online, even on days when they have school, for reasons other than homework. On the weekend, it’s more than four hours, according to a study by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education.

Kids access the internet in three main ways:

  • Cellphones
  • Tablets
  • Computers

Experts say your child may already be online

“You may not know it, but it’s possible your child is already online. If you’re not paying attention, they’ve already created all kinds of accounts themselves without you knowing,” warns Dr. Justine Pardoen, a specialist in media education and media literacy and leader of the Netherlands-based organization for parent and educator support, Bureau Jeugd & Media. “It is therefore important that you talk to them in time about creating accounts. Explain that they must be 13 years old (and in some cases 16 years old) to use social media and that they always have to do it with you before that time.”

Kids of all ages are using mobile devices

It’s not just preteens and teenagers. Children of all ages have access to devices on some level. 73% of parents in a PEW research study said their child aged 9-11 uses a computer, laptop, or gaming device. Even children two and younger have access to smartphones (49%), tablets (35%), and computers (12%).

Infographic showing children's engagement with certain types of digital devices

“I have seen kids in strollers with tablets playing games,” says Jayne Hitchcock, president of Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA) and author of the book, Cyberbullying and the Wild, Wild, Web: What Everyone Needs to Know. “I think some parents are totally oblivious. They should know a child of any age is vulnerable online, no matter how safe the games or websites look.”

Furthermore, Hitchcock says no device is safer than another. “All [devices] should have some sort of security software on them, as well as parental controls.”


The Biggest Internet Safety Risks for Kids

Infographic showing the biggest internet safety risks for kids

No matter how young or old, parents need to know that their children are exposed to risks. Parents need to understand what their child is up against. Thenyou can protect them from costly or severe consequences. A study conducted by the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings states that the top online risks for kids include cyberbullies and exposure to mature content.

Top online risks kids face today include:

  • Online predators
  • Cyberbullies
  • Phishing scams
  • Posting content that may hurt them down the road for jobs, friendships, or schooling
  • Mature content (sexually explicit, violent, pirated music or videos)
  • Drive-by downloads (when just visiting a site can mean harmful programs are installed on the computer)
  • Malware infections that give someone else access to your computer
  • Unwanted ads or pop-ups

Internet risks will always exist if your child or teen uses the internet. However, it’s not a hopeless cause. There are several ways you can prevent or reduce the risk of harm for your kids online.


9 Top Parenting Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online

Infographic showing steps to increase internet safety for kids

“There’s only one thing you should never forget: the internet is primarily a place for adults. Just like the street,” says Pardoen. “So as parents, you have to take extra measures to make it safe enough for children. You go along, let them play in secluded environments, keep an eye on where they are when they are allowed to go alone, give them instructions or restrictions, you take an extra look, and you talk to them about how to deal with difficult situations. If you keep making that comparison, she says, you can naturally offer your child more freedom.”

Steps to increase internet safety for kids:

  1. Set parental controls.
  2. Install family security apps.
  3. Use internet safety filters.
  4. Use safety features on social media sites.
  5. Install antivirus software.
  6. Keep the computer in a common space.
  7. Password-protect all accounts.
  8. Update your operating systems regularly.
  9. Balance safety with independence.

1. Set parental controls on devices and apps

Parent controls are built-in features included on devices and apps. With these features, parents customize their child’s online experience. What parental controls are available on each device or app varies, but in general, they limit screen time, restrict content, and enhance user privacy.

Features of parental controls:

  • Limit screen time.
  • Turn off in-app purchasing.
  • Prevent inappropriate or mature content.
  • Limit website access.
  • Play, message, or send/receive content with approved contacts only.
  • Monitor device location through GPS.
  • Take time to look at what parental controls are available on your child’s commonly used apps. Then, set them to reflect the type of experience you think is best for your child or teen’s online safety.

2. Install family security apps

Logos of out top rated family security apps focused on kids internet safety

Next, consider installing family security apps. They are an effective way for parents to increase bolster safety for kids across multiple apps and devices, says Hitchcock. Parent control software and parental control apps can manage screen time, set filters on websites and apps, and may offer GPS tracking. If you’re not sure which app is best, Hitchcock suggests searching for ‘parent controls’ online and taking advantage of free trials to see which one works best for your family.

Here are some top-rated family security apps focused on kids internet safety:


3. Use safety filters through your internet providers (ISPs)

Internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T and Verizon offer parental controls as part of their internet security suite of services. Usually, these are free with your service or come with a small monthly fee. “Pretty much every cell provide has parental controls available for free or a low monthly fee. Do this,” urges Hitchcock.


4. Use safety features on websites

SafeSearch in Google filters out most mature and inappropriate content and YouTube has “Restricted Mode.” Some apps or software do this for you, too. Spend a few minutes making sure that sites your child uses have the appropriate settings ticked so that it’s less likely your child will stumble upon inappropriate content.

You can also install adblockers on your web browsers. Ads can often content intrusive or inappropriate content. Safety settings and internet filters can help but consider taking the extra step of adding an adblocker to remove the risk of harmful (and annoying) pop-ups. Read our guide to find the top adblockers available!


5. Install security or antivirus software programs and a VPN on your computer

Logos of our top 5 antivirus software programs

Additionally, cybersecurity or antivirus software programs prevent spyware or viruses that may harm your computer if your child visits a malicious site. Using these programs, parents can also set up regular virus checks and deep system scans to make sure there is no harmful activity happening under your nose. Check out our complete guide of the top 5 antivirus programs this year.

Our top 5 antivirus software programs are:

A VPN hides users’ internet activity from snoops and spoofs your location. This protects your kids by making sure hackers or predators can’t detect their actual location. You can install a VPN on your router so that the location is spoofed on all connected devices. There are several top VPN providers that you can choose from. We recommend NordVPN because of its reliability and performance.

NordVPN
Our pick
Our pick
Deal:
Only $3.29 a month for a two-year subscription with a 30-day money-back guarantee!
From
$3.29
9.3
  • Excellent protection and a large network of servers
  • Nice and pleasing application
  • No logs
Visit NordVPN

6. Keep the computer in a common space

If possible, experts suggest keeping computers and devices in a common space so you can keep an eye on activity. It prevents kids from doing things that might be risky. Also, if inappropriate or harmful content appears through messages or popups, you can address it with your child right away.


7. Password-protect all accounts and devices

Logos of our top 5 free password managers

From phones to computers to apps, put a password on it. That way, no one without the password can access you or your child’s device. Keep track of passwords by using a password manager. Read our detailed guide of the best free password managers available.

Our top 5 free password managers are:


8. Update your operating system regularly

All your devices from cellphones or tablets to computers and smartwatches receive important updates in response to security issues on a regular basis. Be sure to install them regularly so you have the most up-to-date security fixes and remain safe online. Our recommendation is to set updates to install automatically so your device is less vulnerable to known attacks. Usually, you can find this feature in Settings, then select Automatic Updates, but it varies between devices.


9. Balance cyber safety controls with independence

Don’t think you can solve all your internet safety concerns with technical controls, or they may resist them, reminds Pardoen. “Children need a certain amount of freedom (privacy) to develop healthily. They need their own free space to learn by trial and error what works and what doesn’t. So keep balancing, it’s part of it.” Internet safety controls and parent control apps are a great way to keep your child safer online. However, these tools are most useful when they happen alongside open and honest conversations about online safety with your child.

Tips to balance safety with independence:

  1. Explain why. Tell your child or teen why you put safety controls on the family’s devices. It’s not because you don’t trust them, but because there are other people on the internet that you don’t trust.
  2. Empower them. Make sure your child knows how to report inappropriate content or behavior online themselves. If they want to download a new app, do the research together so they can decide for themselves if it’s safe.
  3. Allow them to have privacy. Whether that’s with or without a device, don’t assume they’re hiding something simply because they want privacy. If there are apps or games that you feel comfortable with them playing in their room, consider that option.
  4. Make sure boundaries are clear. Younger kids especially thrive when boundaries are clear. If there are situations in which you might break boundaries, make sure you tell your child what those situations might be. A good way to outline boundaries together is to create a family tech agreement, discussed more below.

As Pardoen suggests, technical controls only provide half the internet security for kids. The other part is talking to your child and being involved in their experiences. This builds trust, teaches hands-on skills, and helps your child understand how serious online safety is.


The 7 Best Tips for Talking to Your Child About Online Safety

The Federal Trade Commission says to “talk early and talk often” when it comes to online safety. You can talk to your child about online safety as an extension of things you are already teaching them in terms of safe, appropriate, and kind behavior. “Just like how you teach them the rules of the road when learning to ride a bicycle,” says Gallagher, former Vice President of NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, former Executive Director of Cable in the Classroom, and cofounder of Digital Citizenship Week and the Digital Citizenship Professional Learning Network, “as they’re getting to use a tablet or laptop, you can have similar kinds of conversations.”

When you talk to your kids about being safe online, see it from their perspective. “What does your kid want to get out of this? What do they think this will allow them to do? How do they want to project themselves? Having this dialogue helps the child trust you will listen,” says Gallagher.

Infographic showing tips for talking to your child about online safety

  1. Talk about what they do online.
  2. Don’t shoot down their ideas.
  3. Set ground rules or create a Family Tech Agreement.
  4. Encourage your child not to believe everything they see or hear online.
  5. Show them examples of safe, positive behavior.
  6. Talk about creating a positive digital footprint.
  7. Set a positive example.

1. Talk to your child about what they do online

Hitchcock suggests parents ask their kids or teens what they love to do online, who they chat or message with, and what games they play. “Allow the kids to show off what they are doing online,” she says. This is always a good way to see if something is wrong. If you’re talking with your child and you notice something amiss, ask how you can help.

Pro tip: Instead of talking directly about your child’s behavior, try talking in the third person. “What would a mean person do on this app?” or “How would a kind person respond to something bad online?” Younger children, especially, seem to be more open to conversations this way.


2. Don’t shoot down a conversation if they want to buy a new app or participate in a challenge

Validate your child’s interests and feelings about the internet. Do research with your child about the latest online challenge, so they can see the risks for themselves. “Online challenges are part of the online youth culture. There’s no point in being “against” [online challenges]. Just like you can’t be ‘against’ bad weather,” points out Pardoen. “So the answer is to try to understand how they affect your child, without being immediately afraid of negative consequences.”

If a particular app, like Facebook Messenger Kids, or a game like Minecraft is on the table, do a little research on it. Gallagher suggests talking to the child’s teacherschool or public librarianor someone from the school’s IT department if you want to know what’s trending online and what risks there might be. Ask questions you may, and then have a sit-down with your child to see how it works.

Ask your child questions like:

  • What is the app supposed to do?
  • How does a nice person act on the app?
  • What could happen if we do something the wrong way?

Have those conversations and judge from how your child reacts to see if this your child is ready to start using devices or engaging online safely, Gallagher suggests.


3. Set ground rules and explain why online safety is important

Furthermore, discuss with your child how much time they can spend online, explain digital citizenship (Common Sense Media has good resources) and what information is safe to share on the internet. Also, explain what the consequences will be if rules are broken like less time online or deleting apps. If your child balks at the rules, Hitchcock reminds parents, “As long as that child is under your roof, you have every right to keep them as safe as possible online.”

Consider a family tech agreement

One way to set ground rules with your child is to create a Family Tech Agreement, like this one from Child Net International. A family tech agreement answers as many questions as possible about internet and device use so boundaries are clear to all family members. It’s a good way for the whole family to talk about safe and responsible online behaviors.

To create a family agreement, discuss topics like:

  • What apps, games, or sites does the family use most?
  • What rules do we want to include in our agreement?
  • How long should we spend on our devices?
  • What information is safe to share (or not)?
  • What do we do if we see something inappropriate?
  • What email address do we use to sign up for accounts?
  • Do we know how to use in-app safety features like blocking and reporting?
  • Who can we talk to if we feel uncomfortable with something online?
  • Who is safe to talk to?
  • What happens when someone breaks the agreement?
  • When might parents be forced to break the agreement for safety?

This is a starting point: your family may discuss more topics on internet safety for kids depending on the ages of your child or teens and what devices you use. Next, write out the tech agreement.

How to write a family tech agreement

  1. Have every family member write out statements they agree to, such as “We agree to only say kind things online.” Or “We agree to only watch videos on these specific sites.”
  2. Indicate who is responsible for certain items. “Mom will update operating systems.” Or “We will all be respectful to others online.”
  3. Outline what will happen if someone breaks the agreement. “If someone is unkind online, they will take a break from devices for one week.”
  4. Decide how long the agreement will last and when you’ll discuss it again. “We will revisit the agreement in 6 months.”

4. Encourage your child not to believe everything they see or hear online

Misinformation is rampant. As a result, your child should know how to find reputable websites. Teach them tips on how to think critically online and encourage media and digital literacy skills.

Top digital literacy skills:

  • How to search safely online
  • How to protect their private information
  • How to find and cite reliable sources
  • How to communicate and interact respectfully online

5. Show them examples of safe, positive (or negative) online behavior

Another way to help your child understand the real risks of the internet is to show them examples. You can easily find consequences of inappropriate behavior online from a local national news source, like when the new Jeopardy host was fired for an inappropriate tweet. Then, use that as a jumping-off point to talk to your kids about safe and respectful behavior.


6. Discuss how they can create a positive digital footprint or reputation

Especially for teens who are creating all types of social media accounts, parents need to talk about creating a positive digital footprint. This includes what they choose to post (or not post) online and how they behave. Employers and college admissions teams may be looking to see if your child has a positive track record online. “In the past, colleges would look at your Facebook page and Twitter feed and evaluate it for admissions,” says Gallagher. “Now it’s different media, but you’re still leaving a trail. What kids think is being funny, like posting something that has racist or sexist overtones….can bite them later.”

Tips to create a positive (and safe) digital footprint:

  1. Only include your first name or use an avatar on your personal profile. Don’t give out any personal information like address or bank details.
  2. Make sure you have permission to share content that includes someone else or to contact someone online.
  3. Keep your passwords and account details private.
  4. Report harmful online behavior or contact and don’t engage in dangerous or harmful activities. This includes not responding to bullies or strangers online.
  5. Be kind, respectful, and positive online.

7. Be a positive example for your child

Most importantly, Gallagher says, parents are the ones who are modeling appropriate behavior. “Be aware of your own behavior around technology. You see now the wild misinformation that’s out there, the way various groups have used social media to polarize people, it makes you wonder just how thoughtful adults are about all of this.”


Should I Still Talk to My Child About Internet Safety if They Aren’t Online?

Don’t wait to talk about internet safety for kids. Whether or not your child is using technology, you should be modeling and talking to them about positive behavior. Younger kids tend to emulate behaviors of respected adults, like their parents.

As to when it’s appropriate for your child to use devices, that’s between the child and parent says, Gallagher. “Age varies so much with the stage of development a child is in. You can make these generalized guidelines that most kids by the age of 13, are aware enough to have conversations about privacy and behaviors that you can’t have with a five-year-old. For some kids, 13 may be too early, for others 11 may be appropriate.”

Gallagher’s suggestion: talk to friends or acquaintances with kids the same age about what’s going on in the digital space with kids that age. Teachers, someone from the IT department in your school district, and school or public librarians can also offer some advice.

Internet Safety for Kids at School

Internet safety for kids at school iconParenting at home is one thing. But how do you protect your child from internet risks at school? Recent changes in the learning environment due to the Covid-19 pandemic have forced schools, parents, and kids online more than ever. Typically, schools have guidelines and rules in place surrounding technology use.

In some cases, older students are required to sign tech agreements that online proper use and possible consequences for misuse of technology. As a parent, you want to understand what your child’s school is doing to keep kids and teens safe and accountable online.

Tips for talking to your child’s school about internet safety

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, some schools had already included a hybrid approach to learning with content or via learning management systems (LMS). Using an LMS, students submit work, view recorded lessons, and communicate with teachers through a school portal. “There were other schools that hadn’t done any virtual learning and were caught at a complete loss. They decided to go with the first thing that was there, and that was Zoom for many of them,” says Gallagher.

In the beginning, free Zoom accounts were not well-protected against outside hackers. “Zoom hadn’t done enough work on its own security early in the pandemic. There were instances where somebody from the outside would be able to join a meeting, and disrupt, say, or show really inappropriate things.” As a result, Gallagher encourages parents to understand what systems schools are using with students and to ask questions.

What to ask your child’s school about internet safety for kids:

  • Does the school use safety features on apps, systems, and devices to keep my child safe online?
  • How are you teaching my child about internet safety and digital citizenship?
  • Does my child need to sign a tech agreement?
  • Do you partner with online safety organizations?

Work with your child’s school to bring online safety to all kids

If your child’s school does not already have clear online safety guidelines in place, you can work with your child’s school to bring better programming to teachers and students. You can’t tell school administrators what to do, but joining programs like PTA Connected gives schools and parents a variety of resources, tools, and a place for discussion on digital safety for kids. Also, see if your child’s school will host ConnectSafely’s Safer Internet Day which brings awareness and tools to online safety. The more that school faculty, leadership, and parents talk about internet safety for kids and teens, the better-protected everyone will be.

What should you expect your child’s school to teach about internet safety?

Many schools are required to implement some sort of online safety education to take advantage of E-rate program discounts, as part of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). But there aren’t clear guidelines as to exactly what that education should look like, says Gallagher.

In his experience working with schools, Gallagher knows there is a good way to teach internet safety for kids and digital citizenship, and it starts with knowing what makes effective learning for kids. “You know an assembly where somebody comes in and talks about their own experience? That type of teaching doesn’t really have any lasting effect,” warns Gallagher. “You have to have to have kids actively engaged in something and have it presented in two or three different variations for it to stick.”

Talking to your school about what they’re doing to promote internet safety with their students is important, but Gallagher reminds parents, “As parents, we are the child’s first teacher.”

How International Governments Are Addressing Internet Safety for Kids

Government building with internet safety shield iconPart of how a school responds to internet safety for kids lies in the government regulations they must follow. So, what can parents expect from federal, or even global, online policies of cyber safety for kids? Experts say, not a whole lot in terms of current cyber safety trends.

While government policies can be helpful in the big picture for things like requiring internet providers to have filters, or limit ads or data collection geared to kids, Gallagher says government regulations often deal with issues after the fact. “My own experience is that because it takes so long for a bill to get signed by the President and the appropriate agencies to set up the regulations, it’s always going to be well behind the issue,” says Gallagher.

The U.S. ranks 12th on internet safety for kids around the world

In the United States,  the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) limits the age at which a child can open an account for some sites and apps to 13, and controls what data can be collected about children. CIPA imposes restrictions on schools and libraries to only receive special discounts if they prove they have an internet safety policy that meets technology protection measures. Even with those laws in place, the United States could do more to keep kids safer online.

The U.S. ranks 12th out of 30 countries scored in the Child Online Safety Index (COSI), a real-time measurement report for child online safety and digital citizenship. The U.S. isn’t the only country working to prevent cybercrime and increase internet safety. The report looks at thirty countries and takes several factors into consideration included the country’s cyber risk, social infrastructure, digital competency, and guidance and education. The two high achievers were Spain coming in 1st and Australia ranked 2nd.

Internet safety for kids is ultimately up to parents

While there are laws and regulations concerning internet safety for kids that are becoming more common around the world, much of the work of internet safety for kids is up to parents. Once you have set up a safe online experience for your child through conversations and tools, what happens when your child’s safety has been compromised?

Take Action When Your Child’s Safety Is Compromised

It may not be obvious to you if your child has an unhealthy relationship with the internet, is being bullied, or has become a victim to another risk. Hitchcock says if you notice something amiss in your child’s behavior, you need to intervene.

Signs your child’s safety is compromised online:

  • Hiding or turning off their device when a parent walks by.
  • Not hanging out or talking with their friends like they used to.
  • Wanting to be in their room alone a lot of the time.
  • Not eating as they used to (loss of appetite or too much food).
  • Spending too much time online.

Hitchcock says, first and foremost, parents must step in to advocate for their child and enforce safety on the internet. If your child is the victim of cyberbullying from a classmate, you need to go to the school and talk to them about what can be done. Hitchcock says that law enforcement should only be involved when there are direct threats of physical harm.

For instance, you should keep an eye on any harmful internet challenges that your child wishes to partake in. Many of these challenges are harmless, but quite a few popular ones can result in serious injuries.

How to report harmful activities online

If your child is the victim of online abuse or bullying, or if they notice hate crimes, terrorism, or fraud, report it immediately. Depending on where the crime or harassment occurred, there will be multiple different authorities to report it to.

Infographic showing how to report harmful activities online

  1. Flag or report all harmful content or contact using social media apps using in-app reporting features. For cybercrimes, cyberbullying, or harmful content, use in-app features like Twitter’s safe mode to report it. Most social media companies have their own safety and privacy policies and will investigate and block content or users. Apps geared towards kids, like Facebook Messenger Kids, have clear guidelines and safety features so that users can block content or contacts and have a safer experience in the app.
  2. File a complaint of cybercrime to federal authorities. Whether it’s a phishing scam, fraud, or identity theft, U.S. federal agencies have resources to investigate and address them.
  3. Report cyberbullying to schools or anti-bullying advocates. All harmful content occurring on social media sites should be reported to the company directly as stated above. If a cyberbullying incident involves a classmate, you’ll want to report it to the school so they can take steps to prevent further harassment on school devices or in person.
  4. Report threats of personal harm to local law enforcement. The National Neighborhood Watch has a search portal to find your local police station.
  5. Report sexual exploitation to local law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

If your child is threatened or happens upon illegal activity online, you need to report it right away. After you’ve reported it, take a breath, and talk to your child calmly about what’s happened.

Talk to your child when they’ve been compromised online

First, a parent should check their own reactions. “The worst thing a parent can do if their child’s safety has been compromised is to overreact or panic,” warns Hitchcock. Kids are often afraid that they will be completely banned from devices. “Talk to the child. Don’t judge them,” Hitchcock tells parents. Next, Hitchcock recommends that parents update any security software and run a deep scan of the device. If you don’t have parental controls yet, set them, and keep a closer eye on what is going on.

Tips for talking to your child after they’ve been hurt or compromised online:

  • Be calm.
  • Tell your child how much you love and support them.
  • Don’t judge your child if they’ve made a mistake.
  • Tell your child to walk away from the device and take a break.
  • Make sure your child knows how to report mean or harmful content and avoid malicious links or content.

Protect devices and prevent future safety breaches

Finally, take steps to protect your child’s internet safety and device in the future. This will keep external accounts safe and re-establish security after your child is compromised.

Tips for stepping in when a device is compromised:

  • Disable accounts and apps.
  • Change your passwords.
  • Freeze credit cards or bank accounts.
  • Do a deep scan of your devices to check for viruses or harmful activity.
  • Make sure all parental controls are set.

Be a Digital Parent and Keep Your Child Safer Online

With more kids and teens online than any previous generation, your child’s chance of falling victim to cybercrime is much higher. All in all, you can’t expect schools or the federal government to cover all internet safety concerns. Online safety starts at home. Take it one step and one conversation at a time, and you can make sure the internet is a fun and safe place for your family.


Meet the Experts

The experts below have each provided invaluable insights and and tips for this article.

1. Jayne Hitchcock

Jayne Hitchcock headshotJayne Hitchcock is the president of Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA) and author of ten books including, “Cyberbullying and the Wild, Wild, Web: What Everyone Needs to Know.” Her own experience with cyberstalking motivated her to become a cybercrime expert. She’s consulted for the Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime and the National Center for Victims of crime.


2. Dr. Justine Pardoen

Justine Pardoen headshotDr. Justine Pardoen is a specialist in media education and media literacy. She leads Bureau Jeugd & Media, a Dutch organization with professionals who organize parent evenings as well as meetings for professionals in care and education. NOTE: All interviews with Dr. Pardoen were translated from the original Dutch interview conducted in 2018.


3. Frank Gallagher

Frank Gallagher LinkedIn headshotFrank Gallagher is the former Vice President of NCTA- The Internet and Television Association. He was the Executive Director of Cable in the Classroom and Cofounded Digital Citizenship Week and the Digital Citizenship Professional Learning Network of ISTE, and served as Chair and member of the Executive Board for Partnership for 21st Century Skills.


How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online: Frequently Asked Questions

Keeping your kids safe online is a monumental task. We’ve broken down some commonly asked questions to help parents keep their children safer on the internet.

Experts say it’s likely your kids are signing up for social media accounts without you knowing. Here’s how you can keep your kids safe while using the internet:

  1. Talk to your child about the risks.
  2. Set boundaries, rules, or even design a tech agreement.
  3. See it from your kid’s perspective: talk to them about what they do online, in a fun way.
  4. Set parental controls on all devices, apps, and websites.
  5. Use a family security app to track all activity across devices.
  6. Install an antivirus software program on your computer and update it regularly.
  7. Talk to your child’s school and find out apps and learning systems they are using, and what they are teaching about online safety.
  8. Be a positive example for your kids.

Any child using the internet is exposed to risks, even with the use of safety features and parental controls. Online dangers for kids include:

  • Predators
  • Cyberbullies
  • Phishing scams
  • Mature content (sexually explicit, violent, pirated music or videos)
  • Drive-by downloads (when just visiting a site can mean harmful programs are installed on the computer)
  • Malware or spyware can cause viruses that damage your files or give someone else access to your computer or
  • Unwanted ads or pop-ups

There are a lot of resources available for parents and kids who want to be safer online. Here are a few:

  • commonesendmedia.org
  • fosi.org
  • cyberbullying.org
  • www.connectsafely.org

You can also go through our detailed article that features advice and tips from cybersecurity experts and fellow parents.

Being online exposes you and your family to several risks including, fraud, scams, predators, malware, spyware, or inappropriate or mature content. These risks can damage your computer, personal information, reputation, and in some cases your personal safety.

Protect yourself and your family by using safety filters provided by your internet or cellphone provider, using antivirus software, and for kids, using parental and safety features on all devices.

Online Safety Journalist
Allison has an impressive research background and a drive to stay on top of the latest trends in cybersecurity to help others combat cybercrime and stay safe online. She has covered a variety of topics but is passionate about informing the VPNOverview readers on online safety and privacy, especially for children and teens.