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Online safety

Everyday, children are exposed to unique risks in cyberspace. Here are seven tips to help kids remember that cybersafety should always be a priority.

#1  // Teach them the basics


No matter how old your children are, if they are using a computer, then they should know a few things, such as what a computer looks like when it is not working, simple electrical safety and that you should never give away any personal information online (go over what that might be). Show them what the security programs you run are, and explain to your children why they are important. Do the same with anything else you consider vital on the computer.

Explain to them that you will not be angry if something happens, and that if people approach them online, it is not their fault. Mention that even safety measures fail sometimes and that it is a bad idea to trust anything more than you when it comes to the computer. Make yourself a safe person to talk about computers with, and encourage your children to ask you any questions they might have.


#2 // Use monitoring software


Given the increasing number of devices kids use to connect on the Internet, it’s difficult for parents to supervise every time they’re online. Parental control apps can help. They are a great way to track your children online behavior and control what they are doing on their smartphones or other devices.

These software solutions act as an online guardian and help parents better monitor kids’ Internet usage, keep track of visited sites, control the Internet connection time, or block malicious websites and report any unusual online activity.

If you want to monitor your kids’ activity and are looking for free parental control software tools, this list comes in handy.

Some parents may see this as an invasion of their child's privacy, but it is imperative for parents to know how their children are behaving online so as to protect them and their family.

#3 // Set usage limits


The Internet might be a fascinating world for kids, but most parents become very concerned about the time spent there. If you notice your child is developing an addiction to staying up all night to be on the Internet or withdrawing from social interaction to use their device, it could be a sign to set usage limits. Make sure you clearly tell them about the time they can spend on their computer or laptop to avoid any confusion or miscommunication.


Parents should also clarify what their kids can and can’t do when they navigate online.

#4 // Keep software up-to-date


Here’s another Internet safety tip every parent should follow. Make sure you check if the Windows operating system used on your child device has all the latest and available security patches installed, such as browsers, plugins, desktop apps, etc. These updates include both security and feature patches and are meant to fix or improve the software you use.

If you aren’t aware of the importance of software patching, please read what security experts have to say about this topic.

Cybercriminals usually gain access to networks and systems by exploiting security flaws found in popular software tools like Adobe Flash, Java or browsers like Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.


That’s why it is necessary to verify the devices your children are using and make sure all necessary security patches are installed.

#5 // maintain open dialogue


While it can be difficult for parents to talk to their kids about online predators and sexual exploitation, it’s essential to keeping them safe. Before a child is allowed to have any sort of social media account, parents and caregivers should be speaking openly about the dangers of online predators and cyberbullying. Let them know they can talk to you about anything on their mind without fear of overreaction, judgement or punishment.


Once parents start conversations with their children, they should keep the dialogue going.  It’s important for parents to ask questions that can include: “What kind of exchanges are you having online? Have you met people online? Have you run into any trouble online? How do you deal with those obstacles or troubles when you encounter them?”

Having these conversations with your children gives you a sense of how they are navigating through their activities online. It helps them understand that you’re involved in knowing about what they do online, and it also holds them accountable for their actions.

#6 // keep phones and computers in common areas


The FBI suggests keeping all cell phones and personal computers in a communal location. Special Agent John Letterhos, who works with the Child Exploitation Task Force in Charlotte, NC, told reporters that he’s noticed video and photos in “sextortion” cases were almost always taken inside the bedroom. By requiring kids to use their devices in the living room or other communal locations, it helps prevent this kind of dangerous activity.

Keeping phones and computers in common areas also allows parents to more effectively monitor activity and limit time spent on the Internet/devices.

#7 // When are they old enough?


Social platforms like Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook require users to be 13+ (16 for WhatsApp), but these sites and apps can’t verify age. You can manage accessibility with parental controls, but if your child is interested in social media at an earlier age, it’s best to be open and discuss their motivations and whether it’s really the right time for them. Remember, allowing hundreds of people to comment on their posts can affect their self-esteem, so consider whether they’re ready for this.

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