Regardless of how different we are, we can all agree that the online safety of our children is paramount. The Internet is filled with many dangers on the web that kids can fall prey to.
Because the Internet can sometimes seem more important than the real world to our children, parents must first arm themselves with Internet knowledge, get comfortable with the digital realm, and then teach this to their kids.
Therefore, you should consider sitting down your child and having an adult conversation about the do’s and don’ts when they are in front of the computer and when they have an active Internet connection.
Nevertheless, you can take additional steps to ensure the online safety of your children by monitoring their activity and by installing software applications that cut off their access to certain parts of the web.
In this article, we are explaining 11 ways in which you can protect your child’s online safety. Check out the list of topics below to see what we have prepared for today (click to jump).
- Keep a single desktop computer in the house for the entire family to use
- Have a friendly but adult chat about Internet dangers and safety
- Spend more time with your children on the web
- Set up rules and time limits that both you and your child follow
- No smartphones, no social media accounts, and no private chat rooms until they are older
- Be in charge of your child’s device passwords
- Secretly monitor your child’s behavior, notice any changes, and take measures
- Set up parental control tools and apps to ensure your child’s online safety
- Install a VPN on your child’s devices
- Set up an ad-blocker on your child’s devices to protect his online safety
- Set up anti-malware protection for the whole family
1. Keep a single desktop computer in the house for the entire family to use
Most households have multiple Internet-enabled devices, like a laptop and a smartphone for each family member. However, when there are also minors around, you should consider buying a single PC that all family members must use whenever they want to get online.
The only exception for using your own laptop should be only when required for work, but not for anything else and not outside of the working hours.
The logic behind this is that kids copy the behavior of their parents. So, if the parent spends too much time on his personal laptop or smartphone, the little one will also want to follow their footsteps.
We are aware that it can become incredibly inconvenient to reshape your lifestyle if you are addicted to the Internet, but you will have a better chance at convincing your child to listen to you if you earn his trust by being fair. It is all part of the child’s online safety.
In this scenario, the desktop computer should be placed in a common area of the house, a room where there is always someone coming in and out, like the living room.
This way, your child will feel discouraged to disobey you and navigate to forbidden parts of the Internet when he knows that his mom or dad is nearby. Suffice it to say, the kid should not spend time online at night.
2. Have a friendly but adult chat about Internet dangers and safety
The best course of action is, to be honest with your children about your concerns as a parent. Let them know that you trust them and that they should trust you, but that going online is almost as dangerous as going alone outside: you never know what you will see or who you will meet.
You should also consider telling your kids some news stories about cyberstalkers and sexual predators without going into too many details. Further, you can explain some of the signs of danger when talking to someone on the Internet – it is all for your child’s online safety.
For example, you can teach your kid to immediately terminate a conversation and come to you for help when talking to anyone that mentions drugs or sex, asks for money, personal information or photos, sends any pictures, or who is simply a bully or advocates hate.
We are not suggesting that you must scare your kids, but they should realize that Internet dangers are real, serious and could happen to them, too, even if they are hiding behind a desktop monitor. It is better to stay safe than become a victim.
Furthermore, you should teach your child about basic Internet security, like never giving out your personal information such as name, photo, email or home address. They should not click unknown links, ads or banners, nor download suspicious files and install software on their own.
3. Spend more time with your children on the web
Connecting to the Internet and browsing various websites can become a fun experience for the entire family. And, this way, your child starts feeling more comfortable about your presence.
Talk to your child and learn about his or her favorite activities. For example, let us assume that your kid is passionate about building or crafting, like playing with Lego.
You can introduce them to Minecraft, read Wikipedia articles about how to play the game, find exciting blueprints to build something in Creative mode, and teach them about electrical circuits using Redstone.
Play Minecraft in offline mode at first and assign a cool building project to your kid. Then, tell him that, after completing the project, you will show them some amazing cities made by other players in online mode.
In addition to making your children feel excited about playing a game, Minecraft unleashes their creativity and teaches them about logical commands applied in programming.
Plus, they will have to earn their way to going online in Minecraft and understand that they can explore online cities only with you by their side. Cyberbullies could be everywhere, and they could disrupt your child’s online safety.
Of course, Minecraft is just an example here. This logic can be applied to anything that can become a family activity, like looking up fun destinations on travel sites. The idea is that you engage in your child’s Internet activities without making it feel forced.
4. Set up rules and time limits that both you and your child follow
Since you are in a position of power as a parent, it can seem easy to try and educate your child by setting up rules and time limits that they must follow just because you said so, especially when it comes to computers.
But it does not sound fair to them: why should they be the only ones following the rules? Let’s face it: most of us thought like this when we were kids, too, and a lot of us resented our parents for it. And neither of us wants to make the same mistakes with our own kids.
Therefore, unless you have to work on the computer, try to follow the same rules and time limits, especially if you like to play video games. Think of something reasonable, like 1 hour of computer each day or no PC activity after 8 PM. It is all for your child’s online safety, after all.
Award your children when they follow the rules and take something away when they do not, like 50 minutes of computer time in the following day instead of 1 hour. Slowly but surely, your kids will learn to tell the difference between right and wrong, as well as take your advice for their own good.
5. No smartphones, no social media accounts, and no private chat rooms until they are older
For example, Facebook and Instagram do not let underage kids create accounts (they must be at least 13 years old). Evidently, this cannot stop a child from creating an account using fake information. But if you suspect this and manage to track down the account, you can contact Facebook and Instagram to shut it down.
Smartphones should also be off-limits until your child is a bit older. Although you can set up parental control on the device, you would not want your kid glued to a screen from such a young age. There will be plenty of time for that later, at least after elementary school.
But you can still get devices made for kids, which can be used to call them in case of emergency and track their location using GPS, like special cellphones or smartwatches. It is all part of your child’s online safety.
There are numerous online services that facilitate private chat rooms for friends or complete strangers. They might have an underage policy like Facebook or Instagram but again, there is nothing stopping your child from registering an account using fake information.
Needless to say, you should not allow this to happen. But you can look up various online services with chat rooms dedicated to children, such as Kids Chat, where your kid can talk with others of the same age and always under your supervision. By creating a comfortable environment, your child can still socialize with others, while you can rest assured there are no risks involved.
6. Be in charge of your child’s device passwords
Every person is entitled to privacy, but it is a gray area when it comes to your child and time spent on the computer. You can never be too safe about it, so it is better to set all your child’s passwords – computer and smartphone (if they have personal devices not used by the entire family), email address, Facebook and Instagram account, and so on.
Once again, we urge you not to betray your child’s trust by hacking into their accounts without them knowing about it. That would not be fair and it would make them eventually distrust you no matter how you will try to fix it.
Instead, have an honest conversation with your kid about this and remind them that you have complete faith in their judgment. But your job as a parent requires you to sometimes check what they are doing to make sure they are safe and that you might be able to spot some signs of dangers which are not visible to your kid. It is all for your child’s online safety.
Ask your children for permission to check their accounts and always do this in their presence. It might feel awkward at first (either for you or them), but it will pay off in the long term, as your bond with your children deepens further.
7. Secretly monitor your child’s behavior, notice any changes, and take measures
You should always take the time to analyze the behavior of your child and notice if there are any changes. It is one thing to start having mood swings as a teenager, but it is another thing to become withdrawn from the family.
Some of the warning signs that you should immediately acknowledge in your children are being secretive about what they do on the Internet or frequently looking over their shoulder when using the computer.
You should also take note when your child switches to a different window or turns off the monitor when another person enters the room, uses fake online accounts or talks to someone who seems to have a fake online account.
When any of this happens, it is time to take the reins as a parent, have another friendly conversation with your child, and inspect their computer or smartphone. Everything has to do with your child’s online safety.
During all this time, you have to remain calm and patient as best as you can towards your kids. And you must constantly remind them that you trust their judgement but are simply concerned about their well-being.
8. Set up parental control tools and apps to ensure your child’s online safety
There are many sites on the Internet that are too dangerous for your child – like the ones promoting adult content, violence or drugs – and it is impossible to keep track of all of them.
However, you can resort to parental control software solutions that automatically block access to dangerous domains. These apps are backed by a huge database of flagged websites so that they can quickly cut off access to those online pages.
Most operating systems have built-in features for setting up a parental control module in one way or the other, so you can explore the preferences of your child’s device to see how to make changes and block sites or mobile apps.
Another solution is to get in touch with your Internet service provider because most companies have parental controls that can be operated at the ISP level.
This way, your child cannot blame you for blocking access to certain parts of the Internet – it is the ISP’s fault after all since they found out there is a minor living in the house.
Alternatively, you can search for third-party parental control software that can be installed on desktops and mobile apps. An example for this is Qustodio, a cloud-based app that lets you set usage limits. It also shows you how your kid is using devices, apps and the Internet.
9. Install a VPN on your child’s devices
Children should learn the dangers of sending unencrypted data over the Internet, especially when connecting to a public, unprotected hotspots. Any hacker nearby could crack the insecure connection and steal credentials or perform man-in-the-middle attacks.
Teach your kids about VPN services, how they work, and why they should always connect to a VPN server when using open wireless networks. This way, all data sent and received is protected through a secure tunnel. Even if a cybercriminal manages to get hold of this data, they would not be able to decrypt it.
If there are multiple Internet-enabled devices in your home, consider picking a VPN service that can be installed at the router level, in order to share the VPN connection with all connected devices and shield them from hackers.
There are many VPN services out there, and it can be quite challenging to choose the VPN that best fits the necessities of your child, especially since you have to compare the pros and cons of each product.
If you need a recommendation in this department, then we suggest picking ExpressVPN. It is wrapped in an incredibly intuitive interface and has easy-to-use options that can be configured by your child with minimum effort.
Besides, ExpressVPN can be installed on a wide range of devices, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. It is not the cheapest product out there, but it does an excellent job when it comes to secure browsing. If you are interested in this security solution, then you can get started by purchasing a premium subscription plan for ExpressVPN here.
10. Set up an ad-blocker on your child’s devices to protect his online safety
Ads and banners are the gateways to downloading and installing malicious content. Even if your kid knows the risks involved, they could still accidentally click an ad or banner that starts to mess up the device settings.
Without even knowing it, malware agents get installed on your child’s device. They could steal email accounts, encrypt files and hold it for ransom, as well as spread malware to other persons whose accounts are connected to that device.
For instance, Adblock Plus is an open-source tool that can be installed on Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari, Yandex Browser, and Android.
Sit down with your child, teach him about the role of an ad-blocker and how it is meant to protect him from Internet perils, and why he should not disable the ad-blocker.
11. Set up anti-malware protection for the whole family
If you have not already sit down with your children and explained to them the malware dangers available on the Internet, then now is the time to do it.
Teach them about the many different types of malware agents available, such as rootkits that can be installed to take over your computer, ransomware that encrypts your private data and asks for money in return, or phishing that steals your email and bank accounts. It is all part of your child’s online safety.
Even so, you can never be too cautious when it comes to malware, no matter how careful you are about the websites you visit and the sites you click (it applies to both parents and children).
As such, you should consider getting a premium anti-malware solution that can protect the devices of your entire family. Such an application is designed to automatically identify and block malware agents before they ever reach your computer. And, in case your device has already been hit, the tool can run a full scan on your computer and get rid of any infections.
Such an example is Bitdefender Total Security. It provides complete protection for all household devices, keeping them safe from all types of malware. Moreover, you can log into a centralized panel where you can keep track of all devices as well as set up a parental control feature.
You can never be too careful when it comes to the online privacy and security of your child. There are many dangers and creeps lurking around the web. But, by teaching your child how to practice good Internet hygiene, you can maximize their safety when they are using a computer or smartphone.
Just remember that you need to set an example for your child to follow, and there is no better candidate than yourself. Act in the way you would like your kids to behave when using the Internet, and they will eventually follow.
What are your favorite methods for protecting your child’s online safety? Let us know in the comment section below.