The Internet is an integral part of most of our lives. And children who’ve never known anything else increasingly see it as such.

Everything in life now revolves around it. And they can’t imagine a world without TikTok or Amazon like those of us born before Facebook, or well, well before.

So it’s critical that parents apply smart Internet safety strategies when it comes to their kids. You can teach your children to be responsible online and stay safe.

1. Pay Attention to Age Ratings

“But it’s just a video game. How bad can it be?”

Most of us are probably past the naivete of thinking that if something is animated or game-like that, it’s intended for children.

But some of us may still balk at specific online labels stating 7+ or 13+. It may look innocent enough. While ultimately, it’s your decision as to the parent, know that these ratings are often based on elements that may not be obvious at first glance.

Ratings are intended to protect children from all kinds of things besides sex, violence, and language:

  • Manipulative advertising
  • Internet Addiction
  • Exploitation

The ratings exist for a reason. A child’s brain is very easily influenced. Internet security controls can block harmful content.

2. Have Safety Talks Early

You need to have these conversations before the child encounters the danger. Keeping children off the Internet until they’re 16 is not the answer.

Most kids will have some access to the Internet and need to know how to use it responsibly. You don’t have to create fear around the Internet because it does a lot more good than harm. But do encourage good sense and be aware of the latest trends that may be pulling your child in.

3. Stick with Some Rules

It’s hard to set Internet rules if you have been lenient in the past. Start as early as possible, and expect some pushback if you have an older child. Try to be reasonable.

Limit personal screen time and keep the family computer in the open. Set up a parking lot for devices at night, so they don’t disrupt homework and sleep time.

Not only are these rules important for your child or teen. You’re helping them develop a healthier relationship with technology as they grow.

4. Use Technology Controls

As a parent, you have the technology to help you stick with the rules. Many devices come with controls that allow you to set screen time or limit access during certain hours. Use these to your advantage to make your job a little easier.

Chrome is updating its privacy and safety features. Make use of these tools to make your job easier.

5. Teach About Passwords and Privacy

Chances are, by the time they’re adults, we won’t need passwords anymore. But you’re instilling the importance of protecting private information that criminals could exploit.

That’s an important life lesson, regardless of what form it takes in the future.

6. Talk to Them About Mental Health

Social media has made celebrity life more accessible than ever before. Just about anyone can become Internet Famous.

But social media continues to be a compilation of some people’s best days mixed with others’ worst days for people to laugh at and shame forever.

It’s a distorted representation of reality that is believed to be directly linked to rising rates of depression and anxiety among tweens and teens.

So it’s critical that you both monitor social media usage and talk to your child and how they’re feeling.

7. Protect Their Identity

Talk to your child about the importance of not sharing personal information online like where they go to school, address, phone, or age.

Disable their ability to geotag photos and talk about “stranger danger”.

Stranger danger today is about more than abductions. A shocking 1M children become victims of identity crime every year. Their images can be used to initiate conversations with other minors and their information used to bilk money out of organizations, creditors, and government agencies.

The less of a footprint they leave online the better.

8. Be Willing to Have Uncomfortable Conversations

As they reach those tween years, it’s important to have a conversation about sexting and taking pictures or videos they wouldn’t want the world to see. They do not have any control over what happens to that image or video once it is taken.

Images stored on devices and in the cloud can be stolen. You never know what the person you’re sending intends to do with it. So it’s best not to take or send these images.

Internet Safety Tips Can Protect Children

You can’t protect your children from everything. But raising informed children who know how to use the Internet responsibly can help them stay safer.