Let’s face it — this parenting thing is hard. And having to worry about internet safety for kids has made it that much harder. 

The threats our children face simply weren’t around when we were younger. It’s a whole new playing field. So, where do we even start?

Nobody needs to tell us that cyberbullying, sexting, and accessing inappropriate content can be hugely harmful. 

But being aware of where the danger zones are and how to stop your children from wandering into them can feel impossible. 

Take a deep breath. We’ve got you.

In this article, we’ll share:

  • 9 threats to internet safety for kids (and how to overcome them)
  • 5 tips for tween internet safety
  • Parents give their advice
  • 8 rules for internet safety (downloadable poster!)

Let’s dive in. 

Internet Safety for Kids: 9 Greatest Threats in 2024 (and How to Stop Them)

Apologies, but we’re about to hit you with some of the tougher stats to swallow:

This paints a pretty clear picture: it is a minefield out there — and your kids may not be letting you in on just how bad it is.

One understandable course might be to try to keep them away from the digital world entirely.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, this is next to impossible — and even if you do find a way, it means they’ll miss out on many of the educational and social benefits the internet has to offer.

Recent research reveals that overall, emotional, social, and brain development is boosted by digital connection. 

The goal then is to try to keep your children safe from dangerous content — but, of course, this is easier said than done, even for parents who work in the tech industry:

As Noel Griffith, CMO of SupplyGem, explains:

“My own experience with this was pretty rocky at first. I had no idea what kind of dangers were out there for my kids, so I tried keeping them away from everything. But then I realized that wasn’t working—they were still finding ways to access all kinds of inappropriate content online and sharing it with their friends.
So, instead of trying to shelter my kids from everything online, I started talking with them about how they could stay safe while using the internet. I started teaching them how to recognize scams and phishing attempts, what kind of information they should share online (and what they shouldn’t), and how they can report inappropriate content if they see it anywhere online.”

Sound like a good way forward? We thought so. As we talked to the multitude of parents in our community, we discovered a variety of techniques & tools for keeping children safe as they use the internet.

So, here’s the plan: we’re going to take you through the biggest threats out there, as well as what you can do to reduce the risk and limit harm. 

That way, you can rest assured that you are doing all you can to keep the younger members of your household out of harm’s way.

#1. Addiction & Screen Time

While engaging with technology can help boost our brains and social skills, too much of it can be dangerous. 

We all know how hard it is to put our devices down — and if you’ve been feeling like being glued to your devices has impacted your mental health, you’re not wrong. 

Emerging research has shown that extensive screen time can lead to:

  • Impaired emotional and social intelligence
  • Heightened attention-deficit symptoms
  • Impaired brain development
  • Technology addiction
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Social isolation

As for your kids’ developing brains, research has linked too much screen usage for children to “problems in social-emotional development, including obesity, sleep disturbances, depression, and anxiety.” 

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), details these effects, saying too much screen time has the potential to lead to:

  • Mood problems
  • Fear of missing out
  • Reading fewer books
  • Lower grades in school
  • Less time with family and friends
  • Poor self-image and body-image issues
  • Not enough outdoor or physical activity
  • Less time learning other ways to relax and have fun

How much screen time is too much? The AACAP gives these age-based guidelines:

  • Under 18 months: limited to video chatting with family and friends
  • Between 18 and 24 months: only educational programming under the supervision of a caregiver
  • Between 2 and 5 years old: limit non-educational screen to one hour per weekday and three on weekends.
  • For 6-year-olds and older: limit screen time as much as possible and remove screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime.  

Internet Safety Advice You Can Action Right Now

While each child’s needs will be different, there are some actionable steps you can take right now to help balance the pros and cons of screen time for your kids:

  • Use a Parental Control App. For all the challenges that technology brings, it also brings innovative approaches to managing them. Parental control apps (we reviewed the best ones here) help you set healthy restrictions on your child’s phone and structure downtime around your family’s schedule to help you manage bedtimes and dinner times. 
  • Schedule unplugged playtime. This could be time out at a park, social time with friends, or a day trip to the beach. Show them that, as much fun as screens can be, there’s a whole world out there to explore. (And if you need to give them a little nudge out the door, remember you can schedule downtime for their devices on your parental control app.) 
  • Model healthy digital behavior. We know this can be tough, but there’s good news here. By spending time away from your screen, you’ll not only show them that it’s possible, but you’ll also reap the rewards of a break. 
  • Establish a tech-free zone in your house. We love this idea — and it’s so simple to put into action. Certain areas in your house must remain device-free at all times — no negotiation. If you feel like getting creative, you can even put some signs up!

Clare Gilbey, founder of the Chakra Practice, shows us just how beneficial this can be:

“When my children were younger, I noticed their increasing screen time was not only distracting but also exposed them to risks online. To counter this, we designated certain areas of our house, particularly the dining room and bedrooms, as tech-free zones. 
This simple rule encouraged more family interaction during meals and healthier bedtime routines. It wasn’t always easy to enforce, but the positive change in our family dynamics and my children’s well-being was evident. They became more engaged in offline activities and conversations, fostering a safer and more balanced approach to technology use.”

#2. Inappropriate content

A new report shows that the majority of kids between 13 and 17 in the US have watched pornography online, with some accessing it as young as ten years old.

And while it can of course be intentional, not all children are being exposed to porn by choice.

One in five kids between the ages of nine and 17 will view unwanted sexual material online in the form of “explicit images and videos in pop-up windows or spam emails.”

Inappropriate, explicit adult content (i.e. pornography) has been linked to several negative effects on adult & children’s lives:

  1. Behavior: Higher likelihood of risky behaviors (like aggressive or condomless sex)
  2. Relationships: Unrealistic expectations, reduced trust, low satisfaction.
  3. Brain function: Alteration to the brain’s dopamine reward center

Let’s look a little deeper at the evidence behind these.

There’s a firm link between being exposed to sexually explicit media as a tween and sexually risky behavior in early adulthood.

In our article on the effects of porn on teenagers, we discuss how porn increases the risk of condomless sex, aggressive behaviors, and the chance of developing internet addiction. 

Porn also affects the workings of our brains, from messing with your production of dopamine (the “pleasure” chemical) to creating new neural pathways similar to substance addiction (head here for the full lowdown).

And there are other threats to be concerned about here, too. 

Porn can also have a hugely detrimental effect on relationships by setting up unrealistic expectations for sex, decreasing relationship satisfaction, reducing trust, and increasing sexual aggression and violence (we discuss this in detail here). 

Watching porn as a teen can have a lasting impact on your relationships as an adult.

Internet Safety Advice You Can Action Right Now

Of course, shielding your children from all explicit content can feel impossible in this day and age. We’re here to help. 

Here’s what to do:

  • Use an AI-powered smart filter to weed out explicit content. Canopy is the only parental control app that blocks porn on every single website. That’s because it’s able to identify harmful images and videos in real-time before they make their way to your child’s screen. 
  • Open the dialogue. Okay, we know this is easier said than done — especially with teens. Steven Schlozman, M.D., gives us some useful tips in this regard. He explains that it’s important to leave shame out of the discussion. Sexual exploration is OK — it should just be done in a healthy manner. 

It’s also important to start the discussion at a young age. 

Tell them to let them know if they come across anything that feels inappropriate. Know that tweens and teens may not want to open up, and that’s totally okay. 

It’s still important to have the discussion. They’ll continue to think about what you’ve said.

#3. Cyberbullying

A recent study from Pew Research showed that almost half of teens have experienced some kind of cyberbullying, from offensive name-calling to false rumors to receiving explicit images they didn’t ask for. 

8 rules for internet safety for kids
8 rules for internet safety for kids

Source: Pew Research

Victims of cyberbullying experience a marked increase in mental health issues, including depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts. 

Cyberbullying perpetrators also suffer negative effects, including higher stress levels, poor school performance, and an increased risk of depression and alcohol misuse. 

Internet Safety Advice You Can Action Right Now

You may feel quite desperate trying to protect your kids from cyberbullying. You may not even know it is happening until it is too late. 

In our article on how to prevent cyberbullying, we outline the most effective methods:

  1. Educate yourself on where cyberbullying is most likely to occur.
  2. Talk to your child about using social media responsibly. 
  3. Check their social media accounts regularly.
  4. Protect their online accounts from scams and hackers (more on this below).
  5. Secure their social media accounts by checking their privacy settings across devices.
  6. Prevent sexting and stop them from taking inappropriate pictures of themselves by signing up for Canopy. 
  7. Turn off location sharing.
  8. Tell them not to engage with cyberbullies, no matter how tempting it may be. 
  9. Always report cyberbullying, even if you or your child is not the victim.
  10. Check to see if your child is involved in cyberbullying — sometimes this can be as simple as forwarding a mean image. 

You can read all the details here.

#4. Deepfakes and Manipulated Media 

Advancements in AI make creating convincing fake images, audio clips and videos easier. 

These can then be used to bully or deceive children. 

Suddenly, a clip appears of your child at a party they were never at, a voice recording surfaces of something they never said, or a picture emerges of something they never did.

The threats related to manipulated media have all sorts of implications for kids. It makes them more vulnerable to all kinds of abuses, including identity theft, cyberbullying, and sextortion.

A report from the AI company Sensity cautioned back in 2019 that 96% of deepfakes they surveyed were of pornographic material. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of Deepfakes grew from about 14,000 to 145,000.

Terrifying, we know. And, as things currently stand, no specific legislation currently exists in the U.S. to regulate deepfakes — it’s new tech that we’re all struggling to catch up with. 

So what can you do? We’ll take you through it.

Internet Safety Advice You Can Action Right Now

While you may not be able to ward off all threats, there are ways to keep you and your family safer from this kind of technology. 

  • Educate yourself about manipulated media — exactly what you’re doing now! 
  • Learn how to spot deepfakes by looking for details in the images. Look closely at the body parts in images — especially the hands — to see if there is anything that seems off to you. As advanced as this technology is, it’s not perfect, and it’s often possible to tell that the content has been manipulated.

Look closely at this still image from a video from MIT’s Media Lab. The image on the left has an airbrushed quality. 

This can be a signal that you’re in deepfake territory.

  • Talk to your children about deepfakes and manipulated media. Explain the dangers of using apps to create this type of media and how to spot false images once they’ve been created. Once they understand the dangers, they’ll be more likely to report deepfakes if they see them being made.

#5. Sextortion

Sextortion means threatening someone with the exposure of evidence of their sexual activity unless they give you money or sexual favors. The stats around this crime are alarming, with 1 in 4 victims aged 13 or younger.

How might this impact your teen? It can start out really innocently. They make a new friend online. After they have given over their trust, they may respond to a request from this new friend to send a revealing photo.  

Before they know it, that trusted person is threatening to expose their image to the world unless they give them what they want. 

(We’ve put together a list of sextortion examples here if you’d like to learn more about how to spot this phenomenon.) 

In the world of deepfakes, the dangers of sextortion are even greater. Manipulated media can be used as a bargaining chip, making this crime even more sinister.

Canopy’s CMO Yaron Litwin was interviewed on the criminal use of AI as a source of blackmail and to generate child porn. He states quite plainly:

“If I weren’t in this industry, I don’t know, as a parent, if I would be fully aware of where this could go and what could be done.”

While this may seem an impossible situation, there is hope.

Internet Safety Advice You Can Action Right Now

  • Stop your teens from taking explicit photos. If that sounds impossible without monitoring their behavior 24/7, there’s good news. Canopy is specially designed to prevent sextortion by stopping explicit photos in the tracks. The app detects indecent images and lets you know if there’s anything to be concerned about.
  • Speak to your kids about the risks of sexting and how it can lead to sextortion and cyberbullying. The dangers extend from falling victim to groomers to experiencing mental health concerns to getting caught up with serious legal concerns. We take you through all the details in this article

It’s horrible to think about it, but if your child does fall prey to sextortion, there are steps you can take to minimize the harm.

  • Don’t engage those who are trying to extort you.
  • Don’t engage them.
  • Document all the threats.

You can then decide the next steps as a family. You may want to go to the police. Whichever route you take, reassure them that it’s not their fault.

You can read our full guide to dealing with sextortion here.

#6. Mental health 

Social media, in particular, can have a profound impact on children’s self-esteem and mental health. 

The massive pressures of comparison and the pursuit of likes and validation make for a perfect storm.

This recent study showed that smartphone and social media usage is linked to an increase in mental distress, self-harm, and suicidality. 

Internet Safety Advice You Can Action Right Now

  • Encourage dialogue around mental health. This can be particularly difficult if your teen is feeling depressed, but it’s vital that you try to check in with them as often as possible.
  • Seek professional help. If you notice that your child is struggling with their mental health, it’s a good idea to see a counselor and/or a doctor. They’ll be able to steer towards the next steps you have to take.
  • Limit screen time. Refer back to our very first point for info on how.

#7. Misinformation and Radicalization 

The reality is kids are just that much more susceptible to falling into the trap of believing and/or sharing content that is not true. 

This is especially problematic with the rise of algorithm-driven content delivery, which means that your kids (and you!) will keep seeing material related to your previous engagement. 

This can create dangerous echo chambers that reinforce the “truth” of false information and serve to radicalize views. 

Internet Safety Advice You Can Action Right Now

  • Discuss the importance of influencers and how they impact people. Ask them to show you their favorite influencers and explain why they like them. Discuss why the influencer’s reach is so broad and what it is about them that is so appealing. Explain that having this kind of reach is a great responsibility that can be misused if it is not treated with respect.
  • Explain the real-world consequences of digital behavior. From distrust in journalism and science to crime targeting specific groups of people, misinformation spills out of the digital world and has very real impacts. In a Pearson Institute/AP-NORC survey, 77% of respondents (from both sides of the political spectrum) said that misinformation encourages hate crimes. 
  • Teach and encourage critical thinking skills. Help them to engage with the content that comes their way by asking where it came from (is the source legitimate?) and if other sources can back it up. If they are unsure, encourage them to talk to an adult. 
  • Encourage them to be part of the solution! As vulnerable as kids are to misinformation, they can also be instrumental in debunking it. UNICEF’s Young Reporters program is an example of kids taking misinformation into their own hands and finding out whether it’s true or not. 

#8. Scams and Phishing 

While we are all vulnerable to scams and phishing, children are just that much more so.  

Scammers have realized this and are specifically targeting kids because they are quicker to react and have less experience in the world when it comes to dealing with professional organizations and companies. 

Scams that specifically target kids include fake scholarships and contests, sextortion, online shopping fraud, and identity theft—and with manipulated media, the threat is only increasing.

Research from Social Catfish shows that the amount of money lost to children from online scams is up 2,500% from 2016.  

Internet Safety Advice You Can Action Right Now

The most important thing is to get the dialogue going as soon as possible. Here are some important discussion points. 

  • Tell them never to download anything without permission. 
  • Explain why it is important to not click on links they don’t trust in emails and messages.
  • If they suspect they are being scammed, tell an adult and stop all communication with the person
  • Show them how to identify suspicious links:
    • Look for spelling and grammar errors.
    • Be wary of anything that seems incredibly urgent that tells you to respond now!
    • Pay attention to the sender. Is this a number or address that you know? Is it correct?
  • Know that it’s never too early to teach them about data privacy. As Carly Hill, Operations Manager of  Virtual Holiday Party explains:

“Letting them know that they should not share sensitive personal information such as phone numbers or physical addresses online, even if it seems like a trustworthy person is asking for it, could potentially be a valuable lesson.”

It’s also important to:

  • Ensure that the security settings on their computers are up to date.
  • Make sure all social media accounts are set to private. 

#9. Online Predators 

Predators use the internet to exploit minors. They might pose as peers to gain trust and then engage in grooming behaviors or attempt to arrange in-person meetings. 

This can lead to sexploitation, real-life violence, or kidnapping.

The fact that there’s too often a gap between who people are online and who they are in the real world has made it much easier for groomers to find out where kids are and use those spaces to form connections that they can later exploit. 

According to this Thorn report, victims of sexploitation typically had first contact with a perpetrator through a social media friend request.

Internet Safety Advice You Can Action Right Now

Again, communication is key here. The sooner you open up the dialogue the better. 

  • Tell them that under no circumstances are they to meet anyone in person who they’ve met online without first telling you. 
  • Before sending off texts, photos, or videos to someone, remember where your message can land
  • Discuss why it’s important not to talk about sex with strangers. If they ever feel uncomfortable, it’s important to tell you, block the person, or both.
  • Explain that the internet is a public space, and although a relationship may feel intimate, it really could be anyone on the other side of that screen.

Canopy is also a very important tool here. The sexting prevention function will alert you if your child is either sending or receiving elicit photos or videos.

Internet Safety for Tweens — 5 Tips for Older Kids

Internet safety gets harder as kids turn into tweens. 

They become more independent, spend time away from you, and have their own smart devices. 

Communication is key with tweens. Shaming them will only teach them to better hide their activities, not to stay safe online. 

So it’s vital to maintain an open, friendly dialogue with your children.

That being said, as anyone with tweens and teens knows, open dialogues may not be as easy to forge as they once were. 

That’s where the conscious use of parental control apps can be so effective. 

They offer a layer of protection and monitoring that, if used in a non-obtrusive way, can help reduce harm and keep your children safe. 

Our top 5 tips for tween internet safety

1. Use tech to keep them safe. 

Take the time to explore and understand the available technologies available to parents in 2024. To get you started, we reviewed the best parental control apps for iPhone users here.

2. Make sure your teen understands the dangers of texting and driving. 

Your tween won’t be driving yet, but it also won’t be long. As one of the most dangerous activities (about 2,000 people die in car accidents every year), it’s worth educating and modeling safe driving from an early age.

New drivers need to be especially aware of these dangers. Here’s a graphic from Consumer Notice to start the conversation:

3. Talk to them about the downsides of social media.

As much as it brings to our teens in the form of finding like-minded people and forging connections with friends, there are some serious downsides to social media use.

According to the Jed Foundation, comparing ourselves to others on social media (also called comparison culture or social comparison) has significant detrimental effects, including:

  • Decreased overall well-being
  • Increased depression
  • Poor body image 
  • Eating disorders

It’s important to have conversations with your tweens about these detrimental effects. 

To help you navigate this discussion, this data from the 2022 Pew Research Centre may help. It shows both the up and downsides of social media for teens:





More connected to what’s going on in their friend’s lives


Overwhelmed because of all the drama


Like they have a place where they can show their creative side


Like their friends are leaving them out of things


Like they have people who can support them through tough times


Pressure to post content that will get lost of comments or likes


More accepted


Worse about their own lives


Looking through this research together can help them feel like they’re not alone in what they’re experiencing. 

It will also show them that you understand there are some plus points to social media usage. You’re not simply trying to ruin their fun.

4. Know their online friends.

Getting to know your kid’s real-life friends feels like a given. You want to know who’s influencing them and they’re like, right? Especially before sending them over for a sleepover.

Your tween’s online friends should be no different. Most tweens play online games or talk in forums and social media for hours each day to people they’ve never met in real life. 

To keep them safe, take an interest in who these people actually are. Encourage open communication about it and set hard rules that you must be informed if your tween plans to meet their online friends in real life. 

It may feel unlikely, but you never know who is a “catfish” online these days.

5. Check their browser history frequently. 

And know their passwords. Make that the deal and explain that this keeps them safe, not because you want to be a snoop. 

Supervised internet usage will allow you to correct and discuss potentially harmful behaviors.

Internet Safety for Kids: More Parents Give Their Advice

Establish open communication lines.

We know from personal experience that many kids will find it embarrassing to talk to their parents about their online lives. But the earlier you get this conversation going, the better.

Cindi Keller gives this advice:

“Starting regular conversations about internet activity fosters a supportive environment in which children can share their experiences and concerns. By carefully listening to their children and answering their queries without judgment, parents can acquire insights into potential online threats.”—Cindi Keller, Comms Coordinator of The Criminal Defense Firm

Put a “contract” in place about their internet usage.

Putting it down on paper has many benefits:

  1. It helps you make rules that are suitable and unique to your family.
  2. It gives you physical evidence of what you agreed upon.
  3. It involves your kids in the process of rule setting. 

Haya Subhan explains the process they’ve been through in their family:

“This contract outlines clear rules and expectations for online behavior, tailored to their age and understanding. For instance, we agreed that my tween would not share personal information online and would only use approved websites. We reviewed the contract together, ensuring they understood each point. This approach not only set boundaries but also opened a dialogue about internet safety, making it a collaborative and educational experience.”—Haya Subhan, General Manager of CPR Training 

Make sure that they know that social media content is forever.

In our culture of immediate gratification and instant responses, it can be hard to imagine that what we post online can be around for all eternity. 

But even content that appears to disappear from public view, like Instagram Stories, can easily be screenshotted and become immortal. 

Be on the lookout for signs of bullying, grooming, and abuse.

According to the Social Media Victims’s Law Center, warning signs of cyberbullying and abuse include:

  • Physical symptoms, like frequent aches and pains
  • Depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem
  • PTSD symptoms
  • Avoiding school or leaving school early
  • Academic problems
  • Detachment from friends and family
  • Anger, rage, irritability and frustration
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Self-injury or self-destructive behavior
  • Suicide attempts

Remember that they’re watching you.

OK, this can be a difficult pill to swallow, but if we do not model good digital behavior, it’s hard to expect our kids to adopt healthy habits. 

Michael Alexis says:

“The online environment is an impressionable one; setting a good example for children by choosing constructive conversation over judgments or complaining can aid in promoting safe and responsible internet activities.”—Michael Alexis, CEO of teambuilding.com

8 Internet Safety Rules for Kids – Downloadable Rules!

We’ve put together this cheat sheet that you can customize, print out, and stick up around your house.

8 rules for internet safety for kids

Right-click to “Save” the image. Then you can print it off to keep at home.

FAQs for Internet Safety for Kids

How do I teach my 10-year-old about Internet safety?

My experience is that the sooner you start the conversation around internet safety, the better. According to research by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, nine out of ten tweens (9 to 12-year-olds) use social media and gaming apps — and one in five has been cyberbullied, cyberbullied others, or witnessed cyberbullying. Younger kids may also be specifically vulnerable to scams and phishing. 

Use the resources available to help you have the conversation. Download a parental control app, draw up a contract, and print out our Internet Safety Rules for Kids. You are part of a larger community of parents who are all navigating this together. You don’t have to do it alone.

What Internet Safety Laws exist for kids in the US?

The Children’s Online Private Protection Rule (COPPA) is designed to protect the privacy of children under the age of 13 years. 

It requires that websites:

  • Get parental consent before collecting any personal data from children
  • Never ask for more info than necessary for kids to participate in games and other online activities
  • Explain their privacy policies

How to improve digital literacy as a parent

Congratulate yourself because you’re doing that right now! 

Keep up to date with the digital parenting resources on the Canopy blog. This is a space to engage with the latest trends and research, find expert opinions on digital matters, and get tips on having difficult conversations with your kids.

Join the community here.

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