Online Safety Tips for Kids


13 Online Safety Tips for Kids and Teens

A large number of children now have their own smartphones and use them frequently throughout the day to connect with friends, play games, use online apps, and engage in other internet-based activities. Keeping track of a child’s online activities was much easier before smartphones became an extra appendage for many young people, when parents could monitor a desktop computer and install parental control options, if necessary. With smartphones, on the other hand, monitoring activities is much more difficult – often simply because the phone is usually in the hands of the child whose activities are the subject of monitoring.




Without being able to physically control what a child is doing throughout the day on their smartphone, a parent’s next best step is to spend some quality time with their child(ren) discussing expectations and laying any ground rules that the parent feels is necessary. Parents should also educate their children about the very real dangers of the digital world, such as viruses, spyware and malware, programs that can be used for identity theft, and – of course – online predators.

Here are thirteen tips parents should discuss with their children to ensure that kids and teens are better prepared to enjoy their online activities safely:
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Never provide personal details to anyone online (even if you think it is someone you know). This includes your full name, home address, telephone number. It also includes other identifying information like where you go to school, preferred “hang out” spots, the phone numbers or addresses of family members or friends, and other details.
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Do not use personal information in your chosen screen name or account name. For example, you would not want to use “sbsmith1993” as a screen or account name (it provides your first and middle initials, last name, and – presumably – your year of birth).
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As with item #2, do not use personal information for account passwords. These easy to remember passwords can also be easy to guess, so make sure your passwords are harder to crack. The best passwords use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and – when permitted – a symbol or two (like an asterisk, dollar sign, or ampersand).
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It can sometimes be tempting to download that “free” hot ringtone or game app, but you should make sure it is a safe-to-use item before you download it to your computer or mobile device. Make sure your anti-virus software is configured to automatically scan downloaded content; if it isn’t, scan the item yourself before opening or installing it.
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Speaking of downloading, there are thousands of free movies, songs, games, and applications that can be downloaded through peer-to-peer file sharing sites and programs (such as a torrent client). Just because they are there does not mean you should help yourself to what is available. Many files listed on P2P and torrent sites are copyright protected, which means you could encounter problems – including the legal kind – if you decide to start downloading. Some files might look like the newest song by your favorite artist or that awesome movie that just started playing at the local cinema, but they can contain malware, spyware, and viruses. Some programs and apps that let you download content also expose your computer’s files and folders to other people. It is best to avoid P2P and torrent downloads altogether, just to be safe.
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If you are a licensed driver, never drive while texting. One split second of inattention can literally change your life in the worst possible ways, so use your phone or mobile device sparingly and safely when behind the wheel of a vehicle.
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Do not store provocative or sexually suggestive photos of yourself on your smartphone or mobile device, and do not send them to other people via texts or other messaging methods. The multimedia stored on your mobile gadgets may not be as secure and private as you think, and messages can (and unfortunately do) tend to find their way to several other people or, in a worst case scenario, posted on a social media or photo-sharing network online.
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Never post hateful, bullying, or other negative comments about another person online. Not only does this make you look weak and insecure, it can also be very devastating to the person who is the target of your wrath. In some states and municipal jurisdictions, this type of activity is also illegal and you (and/or your parents) could soon find yourself in court facing charges of harassment, cyber-bullying, or other illegal activity.
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Do not respond to private messages, texts, or emails from someone you do not know. This also includes joining a private chat session with a stranger or less-than-familiar acquaintance.
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Never agree to meet someone you do not know personally (and very well). If you are planning to meet with someone you know but still feel slightly uncomfortable about the situation, let your family or friends know who, when, and where you will be meeting and take a friend or two along with you. In those cases, you should also arrange to meet in a public place – never at someone’s house or another remote or private location.
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Do not disable protective features on your computer or mobile device without permission from your parents first. This includes the auto-virus program, firewall, parental controls, or other “gatekeeping” programs and apps that are designed to prevent virus infections, spyware downloads, and other problems.
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The “rules” for using a phone or computer also apply to playing online games, where you can be immersed in a virtual world with hundreds or thousands of other people from all over the globe. Do not share personal information or exchange photos and videos, and limit your communication with other gamers to what is necessary to enjoy and complete your gaming experience.
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Last, but certainly not least, if you ever feel uncomfortable at all about any communication you have received – whether it is a text, email, or other message – or if someone is harassing you, bullying you, or posting negative information about you online, tell your parents. If you would rather not let your parents know (even though they will likely find out anyway), speak to another trusted adult like a school counselor or teacher, church youth pastor, or your best friend’s mom or dad.

The safety tips provided here will give parents a starting point in having a discussion with their children about safe use of the internet, whether it is with a desktop or laptop computer or a mobile-friendly device like a smartphone or tablet. Children often don’t see the danger in what they are doing until the situation has reached a critical point; it is up to you – the parent – to give your child the tools and education he or she needs to search, surf, and socialize safely while engaging in online activities.



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