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11 Practical Internet Safety Tips for Keeping Kids and Teens Safe Online

About 65% of preteens and 95% of teens have smartphones and computers with internet access. Learn how to talk to them about online safety in social media, cybersecurity, and more.

If you have children, chances are good you’ve seen them looking at their phones or laptops but you don’t know exactly what they’re doing. You have even less idea when they’re away form home. Should you check in, or would that invade the privacy?

According to Pew Research, 65% of kids age 9 to 11 and 95% of teens use a smartphone, which typically have access to email, messaging, and social media apps that can enable kids to interact with people anywhere—including total strangers. For kids, interactive technology is a window to the world, but it’s natural for parents and guardians to worry.

Looking for the perfect first device for your child?

iPhones and iPads are great options for a kid’s first device because of the robust parental controls that come with them. These controls allow parents to set limits on the amount of time their child can spend on the device, as well as restrict access to certain apps and websites. Communication limits can also be set to ensure that children only communicate with approved contacts. Additionally, content and privacy restrictions can be put in place to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content. All of these features make iPhones and iPads a safe and secure option for children, and give parents peace of mind knowing that their child is using technology responsibly.

Conversations are your most powerful tool

If all you do is set passwords and locks without taking the time to talk to your kids about what’s appropriate and why, your kids won’t understand and may not use good judgement when they encounter unknown situations. They may even rebel at seemingly unfair rules, so set aside time for a talk that covers personal safety, online advertising, cybersecurity, and everything else about being online.

Let them teach you

Kids love to talk about their favorite apps and services. They like showing off what they know and what they can do with these apps. Start your conversation by asking your kids what apps they use, and then ask what they love about them.

Digital tools help you protect your kids

Most digital platforms and devices include tools that are expressly set up for parental control and guidance. Discovering and using these tools helps you maintain guardrails for your kids when they’re most vulnerable and slowly lower them over time as kids grow more responsible.

Learn about device-based tools

Built-in settings and family account structures are included in all Apple and Android phones, Mac and Windows PCs, and Amazon devices. These tools let you remotely limit what your child can see on the web, what apps they can use, and how much time (and when) they can use their devices.

Explore and use app-based tools

Look online to see if the apps your kids use have parental controls or supervision tools built in. Look for guides and quick guides to most of the popular apps that kids and teens use.

Set social media privacy settings

Find out how your kids currently use privacy and security settings in their social media apps to control who has access to their posts and information. Nearly all apps that enable users to post publicly also have settings to enable private posts so that users have control over who can see what they share.

Social media apps also typically allow you to limit who you follow. Your kids may already know how to limit followers, but this would be a good time to ask them about the settings they use to protect their privacy and work with them to set up even more. You could ask questions like, “So does that mean that everyone could see this?” to get them thinking about implications of leaving settings wide open.

Secure their accounts and devices

Don’t forget to talk about security. Everyone needs strong and secure passwords and/or biometric controls, such as fingerprint or facial recognition. Some of the best ways to keep accounts and devices safe from hackers include multi-factor authentication and PINs.

Help them be responsible for their information

It’s important to talk with your children about what they post and why it’s important not to share personal information that could jeopardize their or others’ safety and privacy. You never know who might gain access to what you post, after all.

Prevent bullying and being bullied

Talk about what it means to act and be treated kindly online, how your kids deal with anger, how to treat others, and what they do when they see someone being mean to them or others. It’s usually easier to be mean, spread rumors, or attack others online because consequences are more abstract, but the basic rules of decency are the same as they are in the “real” world.

Give them a critical eye

With so much information available, it’s important to help your kids consider the accuracy of the information they see, whether from news sources, friends, or strangers. Some people, groups, companies, and even governments deliberately share false information that can be difficult to spot—especially for children and teens.

Keep the conversation going

Make sure to rethink the use of any supervision and monitoring tools from time to time, especially as your children get older, and show that they are capable of using technology responsibly. And speaking of kids getting older, the conversations we recommend are not one-time events. You need to speak with your kids on an ongoing basis to have a continuing understanding of their use of technology, to talk about changes in technology and threats, and to remind them (and you) about the need to be careful when using connected technology.

Not quite ready for your child to have all the freedom of a cell phone or tablet? Try the Gizmo Watch 3, the smartwatch that introduces kids to wireless technology safely. Only the trusted contacts that you manage can communicate with your child’s Gizmo Watch 3, and the watch is restricted from installing any outside apps. Gizmo Watch 3 and the GizmoHub app on your smartphone provide you with an easy way to keep up with your child’s whereabouts. And with features such as an SOS button, auto-answer, voice calling, video calling, and video messaging, staying in touch with your child is as close as their wrist.

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