Nowadays, we use the Internet for everything. Whether you’re keeping in contact with family and friends or attending an online class, the Internet is indispensable—and we wouldn’t have it any other way! After all, technology is a pretty marvelous tool when used correctly.
When used incorrectly, however, the Internet isn’t so warm and fuzzy. Between cyberbullying, anxiety-inducing social media, and inappropriate material like pornography, it can actually be pretty scary. To top it all off, it’s easy for hackers and scammers to target children on the Internet. Kids are trusting and may inadvertently reveal sensitive information.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 95% of children have easy Internet access at home. This staggering statistic illuminates how important it is that kids know how to stay safe while surfing the worldwide web in order to protect both themselves and their families.
Without further ado, here are seven ways to practice Internet safety for kids:
1. Keep Personal Information to Yourself
When it comes to the Internet, private information should stay just that—private. Remind your kiddos to keep personal info to themselves, including details like their name, birthday, student ID number, even their favorite animal. Hackers and scammers can use this info to get past security questions and gain access to secure accounts containing bank and social security information.
2. Only Share Your Password with Parents and Teachers
Passwords are a pretty sensitive piece of information that kids shouldn’t share with anyone but parents and teachers. Remind your kiddo to keep their passwords secret, even from their friends. It’s pretty unlikely that Jimmy from second grade is going to go blabbing about his friend’s password to potential hackers, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Sharing passwords with trusted adults also takes a lot of stress off a child. It can be difficult for kids to remember what they learn in school, let alone the string of numbers and letters that make up their password. When a parent or teacher knows the password, they can let the child into their account if they forget their login information. Parents to the rescue!
3. Stick with Secure Websites
When surfing through the Internet, it’s easy to know if a website is secure or not: just check if the web address starts with http:// or https://.
At the beginning of every web address is a “hypertext transfer protocol,” or HTTP. This is the part of technical code that tells your browser you’re clicking on a hyperlink which takes you to a website or document. Many web addresses extend the code with an “S” at the end, turning it into HTTPS. When a web address uses HTTPS instead of HTTP, the website is encrypted and secure, meaning hackers won’t be able to obtain any of your child’s info while they’re on the site. A little security can go a long way, so teach your child to seek out websites that use the secure HTTPS.
4. Practice Stranger Danger and Don’t Respond to Unknown Numbers
Online message boards and chat rooms are not the safest place for kids. Strangers can use these applications and websites to contact your children without their permission.
Teach your kids about online stranger danger so they refrain from answering messages or emails from unknown individuals. To double down on the threat, take advantage of the parental controls feature found on many browsers and smartphones. Devices from Troomi Wireless, for example, have an optional SafeListing feature which ensures that unknown numbers cannot contact your kids. Click here to learn more about why Troomi is the safest phone for kids!
5. Be Cautious When Using Social Media
We at Troomi have been pretty open about our feelings regarding kids and social media (hint: we’re not the biggest fans). While social media can be a great place to share fond memories with friends and family, it’s not the safest for kids and teens. Cyberbullying, toxic influencers, and comparison culture run rampant on social media. Studies suggest that all of these things are detrimental to a child’s mental health. To practice Internet safety for kids, encourage your kids to step away from these applications.
If your kids do have social media, remind them to be cautious about what they post. Whatever we post on the Internet, stays on the Internet—whether they like it or not. That embarrassing post from four years ago may come back to haunt them in the future, so it’s better to err on the side of caution when it comes to posting.
6. Be a Good Digital Citizen
This one’s simple: respect others and they’ll respect you!
It’s easy to forget that behind every username, profile picture, and comment is a real person with thoughts and feelings—not a faceless robot. One way to remain safe on the Internet is to be a kind member of the online community. Remind your kids to be a good digital citizen and treat others how they want to be treated. If they have a comment that they wouldn’t say to someone face-to-face, they shouldn’t post it online.
Cyberbullies don’t always follow this rule, however. They may be unkind, even if your child has been kind to them. Gently remind your kiddo that they should inform a trusted adult if they’re being cyberbullied. Talking about these issues is one of the best ways to prevent cyberbullying, and a warm word from a parent can work wonders to waylay cyberbully-induced anxiety.
7. If Something on the Internet Seems Unusual, Ask for Help!
Kids have great intuition, and when they think something seems weird or strange, chances are high that they’re right. Encourage them to keep an eye open for anything off-kilter as they surf the web. If they do happen upon something strange, like a scam email or post that makes them uncomfortable, tell them to inform an adult.
If you happen to be that adult, respond to the child with an open heart and understanding spirit. Material on the Internet can be frightening, and your warm smile may be all a child needs to quell any digital fears.
It’s Easy To Build a Positive Relationship with the Internet!
It’s important to be aware of any potential dangers and concerns surrounding the worldwide web. Teaching our children Internet safety for kids can mean the difference between a healthy relationship with technology and one characterized by fear and anxiety.
Encourage your children to develop a positive relationship with their connected devices by reminding them that life exists outside the worldwide web. When the Internet gets overwhelming, help your kids take some time to step away from technology and get in touch with the real world. Go on a hike, play in the backyard, or cook a delicious meal together. Don’t worry, the Internet will always be there when you come back.