Teaching your kids how to stay safe online may feel like a daunting task. But in this age of social media and instant connection, it’s critical that children know how to practice online safety. Here are 5 effective ways to teach your kids how to stay safe online.
Practice Smart Online Habits
Kids in this generation have not known a time when the internet didn’t exist. They don’t know what dial-up is, they don’t know what it is like to not be constantly connected. Because of this, you can’t just assume they understand how to use the internet. You have to teach them basic online safety habits such as not posting their location, personal details, or private info on sites like Instagram, Tiktok, and Facebook. They need to understand that once a photo or a piece of information is on the internet, anyone (truly anyone) can access it.
The Internet Is Not a Game
Video games, virtual reality experiences, and TikTok trends have numbed our kids to the power of the internet. So you have to teach your kids that the internet isn’t a game. Behind every post, every comment, every message, there is a real, live person. While some people are well-meaning and post positive, helpful content on the internet, others are not-so-well-meaning and post negative, unhelpful content. If you want to help your kids stay safe online, teach them to engage with positive content only.
Block/Ignore People You Don’t Know
It’s no secret that kids like attention. Unfortunately, online predators and traffickers your kids’ desire for attention against them. Tell your child that not all attention is good attention, and reassure them it’s okay (healthy, even!) to ignore messages or friend requests from people they don’t know. Show them how to block users that are rude, inappropriate, or violent. Discuss how to recognize spam messages and show your child examples of spam or “fishy” messages so that they know what to be on the lookout for.
Ask the Question, “Would This Happen in Real Life?”
Let’s say your daughter receives a text from her best friend’s dad saying, “Would you mind sending me some cute pics of you in your bikini from the beach trip? I’m putting together a birthday gift for your friend.” A message like this immediately puts up red flags in your mind, but would your daughter see this request as inappropriate?
A good rule of thumb to help your kids discern what is safe and what isn’t is to ask the question, “Would this happen in real life?” or “Would this happen in public in front of my parents?” In the context of our example, your child’s best friend’s dad wouldn’t openly ask for bikini pics of your daughter at a barbecue in front of other dads and moms. So clearly it’s not an okay request and should be reported to you.
When in Doubt, Ask Mom and Dad
Online predators want your kids to keep messages and text threads a secret from you and will go to great lengths to keep the conversation from you. When your teen thinks they’re conversing with a fellow peer, they may actually be DMing a grown man. What starts out as an innocent message or two can turn into something else. Make sure your child knows they can always ask you for advice before hitting the reply button.
Teaching your kids the fundamentals of staying safe on the internet is probably one of the most difficult tasks the modern parent has to do. But moms and dads, you can’t just hope and pray your kids are practicing online safety. Nor should you lean on their expertise and have them educate you on the “ways of the internet.”