Cyberbullying. Pornography. Grooming. Violence.
The dangers of the internet are vast and your concerns as a parent run deep. It’s your job, after all, to keep your child safe. But how can you when the internet is so prevalent in everyday life?
Here are 8 practical online safety tips to help you and your child (no matter their age) navigate the digital world.
- Limit where, when, and how long your child uses technology
- Monitor online activity
- Use parental controls and parental control apps
- Explain internet safety in an age-appropriate way
- Talk to your child’s friend’s parents about online safety rules
- Follow your children and their friends on social media
- Be mindful of all online content
- Listen to your children and check in regularly
Let’s dig deeper into each one.
8 Online Safety Tips for Parents
1. Limit where, when, and how long your child uses technology
One of the best things we can do for our children is to limit their use of technology.
It’s not just what’s on the internet that can cause harm but how long they’re exposed to it. Too much blue light late at night and hours spent scrolling social media instead of doing homework can negatively impact our children’s well-being and development.
If you enforce ‘tech-free’ zones in your home, such as bedrooms, you can increase visibility over what your children are doing online and when.
You may also want to set specific times of day when technology use is allowed, such as after homework is completed or on weekends only.
2. Monitor online activity
Beyond knowing when, where, and for how long, you need to know what your children are seeing and doing online.
Even ‘child-friendly’ content and apps can lead to the darker parts of the web. YouTube is notorious for marketing inappropriate videos to children through its auto-play feature.
Considering 80% of all parents with a child age 11 or younger say their child watches videos on YouTube, with 53% doing so daily, there’s reason to be concerned.
If your child is using an app, the internet, or an online gaming system, make sure you keep tabs on what they’re doing and who they may be doing it with.
Our next tip can help.
3. Use parental controls and parental control apps
You can’t be everywhere at once, especially when you have multiple children. And as your child becomes a teenager they’ll be using technology more independently.
That’s where parental control comes in.
What is parental control? It’s the settings you put in place on technology to restrict its use. It can limit what sites and apps your child visits as well as restrict the time they spend on devices.
Parental control apps like Canopy are able to give real-time protection against harmful content, prevent sexting, and help your child make smart choices online.
Canopy uses AI to spot and block inappropriate pictures and videos everywhere across the internet, even where you might consider it to be safe (like lingerie models on a department store’s website). You can learn more about how Canopy works or skip straight to downloading the app.
Other parents are championing the use of parental control on parent forums like Mumsnet. Below you can see the advice one forum user gave to a concerned aunt.
|Boby11 from Mumsnet wrote:
4. Explain internet safety in an age-appropriate way
There will likely come a time when your child sees or experiences something online they shouldn’t. This isn’t your fault, it’s reality.
Educating your child is one of the best ways you can protect them from falling prey to inappropriate content or interactions.
Of course, you don’t need to explain pornography to a toddler. But you could educate them on what to do if they see nudity online.
As children get older they may start to fight the limitations and control you’ve put into place.
If you explain what your older children and teens need to look out for, the dangers of the internet, and why you care so much, you’ll be equipping them with the information and understanding they need to safely traverse the internet more independently.
Related read: The effects of porn on teenagers (the science)
5. Talk to your child’s friend’s parents about online safety rules
It’s a good idea to get on the same page as the parents of the children your child spends time with.
Find out if they:
- let their child have technology in their bedroom
- have video games that contain violence
- use parental controls
Other parents may not have the same approach to children’s internet safety as you but hopefully, they’ll be mindful of your rules when your child is in their care.
If they aren’t, you can introduce a rule that your child does not go to that friend’s house. Reassure your child that they can still be friends with that person but will need to hang out at your house.
6. Follow your children and their friends on social media
One of the best internet safety tips for parents is to follow your child and their friends’ social media accounts.
This gives you an insight into the online world your child exists in and what they and their friends share.
This is only relevant for children old enough to be on socials in the first place.
When is your child old enough to be on socials? We recommend following the restrictions of the apps themselves: 13 years old on average.
But in reality, many children are getting access sooner. A 2021 study shared that half of children aged 10-12 and one-third of children 7-9 years use social media apps. That’s even more reason to be present on the app too.
This won’t end all of your worries though. The image below shows three challenges parents like you are facing when it comes to social media apps.
If these concerns plague you too, consider using an app like Canopy.
7. Be mindful of all online content
It’s easy to spot inappropriate content when it comes to violence and sex, but what about dangers that can fly under our radars?
You might not think twice about the TikTok influencer sharing what they eat in a day but content like that can trigger disordered eating in teens and preteens.
In fact, research has found links between social media use and eating disorders for both boys and girls.
So what do you do about it? Use tip 6 to help monitor and identify content that could harm your child’s mental well-being. Then use tip 4 to educate your child against harmful thoughts that can come from engaging on social media.
8. Listen to your children and check in regularly
If your child mentions something that sets alarm bells ringing in your head, you must act.
That action might be as serious as getting the police involved with a sexual predator or as simple as explaining what sites your child should steer clear of.
If your child isn’t coming to you with concerns, then make sure you go to them.
Check-in by asking about their activity online. Are they being bullied? Are they witnessing someone else get bullied? Is someone they don’t know contacting them? Is someone they know asking for inappropriate pictures?
The exact questions you ask should be age-appropriate and specific to your concerns.
Why Is Online Safety Important for Parents?
Children have more access to the internet than ever and with that access comes the potential for them to experience:
- Sexual predators and groomers
- Violent imagery and video
Did you know that 54% of teens have seen online pornography before the age of 13?
That’s why it’s important you understand the dangers you’re battling and take steps to protect your children.
Treat this article as your go-to parent guide to internet safety.
And don’t forget to use tools to help where you can. For example, Canopy can help restrict, monitor, and educate your children on online safety. You can get it here.