Teaching Kids About Online Safety

Did your child receive a computer or smartphone for Christmas? Now is the perfect time to discuss online safety. It's a conversation that should happen often with your kids no matter their age, but can easily be overlooked. Nowadays, children (and adults) are quick to grab the cell phone, unsuspecting of the risks involved with downloading mobile apps, sending texts and visiting websites.  In order to bring about awareness of some of these risks, it's important to teach the child early on that dangers do exist, even in the privacy of your own home.

Here are a few age-appropriate concepts for every grade level that we hope will help make your conversation a little easier:

K-2: Although their attention span is minimal...

  • Reinforce that they should only be online when a parent or guardian is with them
  • Ask them what they see online and encourage open communication on how they spend their time on the computer
  • Let them know not to share personal information online and that they should always follow the online rules at school and at home

3-5: Even in these grades, many kids know about as much about computers as the average adult, so...

  •  Make sure they understand and commit to not sharing personal information with anyone they meet online. This includes their name, phone number, address, school, etc.
  • Ask them regularly if anyone has made them uncomfortable online or asked for personal information
  • Ensure they are following school and home rules by keeping conversation open and following up with teachers

Middle & High School: Children at this age crave privacy and may *think* they have all the answers...

  • Nevertheless, discussions should take place regarding the permanency of the internet; they should only post what they want the world to see (including future college administrators and employers)
  • Remind them that using the internet to spread gossip, bully or hurt someone's reputation is never acceptable
  • Children should understand what security tools are available and reputable to use to further protect themselves, their personal information and their computer from viruses, spyware, and spam
  • Assure them that they have the right to not engage with others online. They should always tell a trusted adult if personal information is asked for or if they witness online bullying, even if they do not know the person
  • Children should never agree to meeting in person someone they met online

The internet can be a great tool, but it comes with dangers too. By informing your children early on about the risks involved when using the internet, they will be more equipped to handle whatever it may throw their way.

Contribution: National Cyber Security Alliance