Keep Your Kids Safe Online
Using the internet and technology can be fun, convenient, and educational for children... if used correctly! But, your kids need your help to stay safe online - just like they do at home or school.
One of the dangers is "cyberbullying" - using technology to bully, threaten, or intimidate - and it's more common among kids than you think. Another is "stranger danger," and it's just as important for your kids to be aware of it when they're online as when they're out in the real world. Cyberbullying refers to cruel or bullying messages sent to you through digital devices and online. It can happen through online gaming as well. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false or mean content about someone else. It can also include sharing personal or private information to cause embarrassment or humiliation. These messages may be sent by people you know. They can also be sent anonymously.
What Parents Can Do at Home
- Set limits on what sites your kids can go to and for how long. Use parental controls or filter features to enforce them.
- Keep computers in the common areas of the house so you can monitor your kids' usage.
- Notice if there is a change in your child’s mood. Try to determine if these changes happen around a child’s use of digital devices.
- Understand how social media works: Facebook, Twitter,Whatsapp, etc. Find out which ones your children use.
- If your child receives threatening messages, print them out and keep them as documented evidence, in case you need to file a police report.
- If you are concerned about unsafe online activity involving your child, notify the police and school counselors. Most social media platforms and schools have clear policies and reporting processes. If a classmate is cyberbullying, report it to the school. You can ask to have offensive content removed from platforms.
- Always be an understanding listener. Make sure your child knows that you are a safe person to come to with questions or problems. Do not threaten to take away technology as punishment, since that will teach children to hide phones or computers from you.
What Parents Can Say to Kids
- Talk about how important it is to keep personal information private. Teach your kids never to give out their names, phone numbers, addresses or photos to people they do not know and are not sure of.
- Talk about how important it is to think before posting something online. Always ask them to check their mood. Are they feeling upset or angry? Talk about never sending a message or post on a social media site when upset. People don’t always make good decisions when they are stressed or upset. If you have to, call someone or calm down before going online.
- Talk about how important it is to think before they post or send a message. No online message is truly secure or private. If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see or read it, you probably shouldn’t send it.
What Kids Can Do to Stay Safe
- Ignore strangers or anyone who is bullying you online or through messaging. Never meet anyone in person that you do not know.
- If you get messages from strangers, or messages from people you know that sound like bullying, do not delete them or send them to other kids! Show your parents or a trusted adult. If you ever feel uncomfortable or in danger for any reason, tell a parent or trusted adult.
- Have a trusted adult help you block or report offensive people or messages.
What Kids Can Do to Stay Safe Online
- Choose your username or email address carefully. Experts recommend a combination of letters and numbers.
- Keep private information private. Most trustworthy people and companies will not ask for private information except in special circumstances like online purchasing. Check with a parent/guardian if you are unsure. Examples of private information that the public should not see:
- Your full name
- Any type of photograph (even of your pet!)
- Your current location (photos can include location data in them)
- Home or school address or the address of any of your family or friends
- Phone numbers
- Social Security number
- Names of family members
- Credit card numbers
- Read the terms and conditions of every app and website you want to join. If there is anything you do not understand, ask an adult. Check if the app or website has an age requirement; some apps and websites require users to be at least 13 years old.
- If you don’t recognize the sender of a document or file that needs to be downloaded, delete it without opening it. The message could continue a virus or a malicious program. Install antivirus software on your computer.
- Keep your devices secure. Don’t let other people use your phone unless you’re with them. Don’t leave your phone where someone else might pick it up, and secure your laptop or tablet when not in use. Don’t make it easy for other people to access your personal information.
For More Information
- Kids.gov offers a bunch of ways to help kids learn about online safety and deal with cyberbullies, including online games. [go now]
- Stopbullying.gov for advice and resources on cyberbullying.
- Download and print these colorful tip sheets from our Parent Resource Library: