5 Important Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe Online

Personally, as a parent, one of the scariest paths I will have to traverse is the one that keeps my kids safe online. The internet is an amazing place to find information, entertainment and make connections. However, it is also frightening because predators can gain access to children while they are “safe” in their home.

Keeping my children safe online is a process that began the first moment they started using technologies and is re-addressed on a (very) regular basis.

If you are concerned about keeping your kids safe online, here are 5 tips for you and some great resources too.

1. Set firm rules and review them often. - On their Keeping Children Safe Online security tip sheet, The United States Department of Homeland Security suggests making rules that are appropriate for your child’s age and maturity level. In my house, the current rules are: do not download anything, do not sign up for anything, do not use your real name, even your first and no talking to anyone. They are also reminded that if anyone tries to contact them while they are in a game, they need to let me know right away.

Review these rules on a regular basis and update them as your child ages.

2. Keep the technology out in the open. - The easiest way to monitor your child’s internet activity is to observe them as they are on it. Keep your home computer in an area where you can see and hear what they are doing as they are doing it. This includes cell phones, tablets and handheld devices.

3. Stay attentive. - I preview all online games before they play them. I want to make sure that there are not ways for other users to contact them and if there are, what type of controls do I have. Some games allow for users to contact each other with pre-programmed responses but they can not type their own comments. This keeps your child safer while participating in online gaming.

Parents should also check on what their children are doing online. They should be looking over their shoulders from time to time and asking questions about what is going on. I regularly ask if my child have had anyone try to contact them.

4. Learn about parental controls and use them. - All devices have parental controls that allow you to limit your child’s abilities on the internet. From putting time limits in place to disallowing internet connections to blocking specific apps, parental controls always need to be in place. Install the highest rated security software that you can find. Update them regularly and check the status of them often.

5. Talk about their activity. -Communication is key to keeping your children safe. Talking to them regularly about the rules, why they are in place and even how people can try to harm them via the internet.

For additional resources to keep yourself and your kids safe online, check out Homeland Security’s Alerts and Tips page. You can also get a great deal of information from the StaySafeOnline.org, a website run by the National Cyber Security Alliance. This site is full of information and definitely worth a thorough read. I also like The Online Mom as a source for information in all things technology and kids, and the games included at the FBI’s website.

Keeping our children safe online is extremely important. From cyber bullies to predators to inappropriate content, the internet can be a dangerous place; being informed, proactive and diligent will keep the internet safe and fun for everyone in your home.

Need more guidance on kids and technology? Read our review of "Growing up Social!"