Internet Safety for Kids: What You Need to Know

Educating children about cyber security should start at a young age.

Living in a connected, online world is resulting in younger children handling personal electronic devices and mobile phones — for entertainment, education, and safety purposes. “From the moment children are born, they are given an electronic device for entertainment,” says Stacy Brown, an advisory board member for Savvy Cyber Kids, a nonprofit group that provides cyber awareness and resources for parents and teachers.

The good news is that parents are becoming more knowledgeable about Internet safety for their younger children to help ensure they don’t unknowingly become targets of malefactors.

Here are four ways to help protect your kids in the cyber world.

1. Educate Your Kids About Internet Security Early On

This generation of youngsters is digital native — meaning technology, mobile devices, and social media have been part of their lives since birth. They won’t remember a time without mobile electronics.

So it’s never too early to talk to your children about Internet security. “It used to be that parents would have the cyber security conversation with children when they entered middle school. Today, second and third graders have computer and gaming devices that they take into their bedrooms at night,” says Brown, who is also the 21st Century Learning Coordinator at The Davis Academy, a private elementary and middle school in Atlanta. “This is when parents need to begin those conversations.”

2. Go Beyond Just Monitoring Internet Activity

In addition to monitoring your children’s online behavior with parental controls, you also need to mentor them on the dos and don’ts of Internet safety. Just as you teach your children about stranger danger and looking both ways when crossing the street, you must do the same with online activity.

Teachers and other staff members do as much as they can at school, but “it’s important to continue that education in the home,” Brown says. “That continuous and healthy partnership between school and home in this area of education can make an impact.” She recommends having Internet security discussions with your children throughout the day, similar to how you teach manners or good nutrition.

3. Demonstrate the Risks of Over-sharing

Brown says oftentimes young children can’t grasp all the implications of sharing personal information on the Internet. They tend to share more information than is necessary to their online friends and acquaintances.

“Parents sharing everything they are doing online is modeling this as the expected, acceptable, and safe behavior for the kids,” she says. “Teach kids to be curators of their digital lives. This way they will be more thoughtful about who will be allowed into their social media world.”

Explain to your kids that their digital footprint is more like a digital tattoo. A footprint may wash away in time, but a tattoo stays with you forever — and it’s hard to remove once it’s a part of you.

4. Teach Your Kids to be Good Digital Citizens

Brown suggests continuously talking to your kids about digital citizenship.

“The digital playground is like being on a playground when no one is on supervisor duty,” says Kevin Honeycutt, an educational technologist with Educational Services and Staff Development Association of Central Kansas. “Raising your child to make the right choices helps them make the right choices later when you are not around to monitor their Internet activity and provide digital parental controls.”

Gain even more Internet safety tips for your kids.


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