6 Tips to Keep Your Teen Safe Online
Once you understand the types of threats lurking in the internet’s shadows, you can take action to minimize the risks to your teen. These tips lay a strong foundation of defense against the worst internet threats.
1. Talk about It
Communication is the key to keeping your teen safe online and in the real world. Whether your child is in the preteen years or just celebrated their sweet 16, it’s never too early (or too late) to start talking to them about internet safety.
Let your teenager know the online threats you’re concerned about, and discuss how to steer clear of them. By starting a dialogue about internet safety with your teen, you also pave the way for them to come to you when something strange or scary happens.
2. Set Up Ground Rules
Clearly outline your expectations for online behavior, and identify internet safety rules that will help protect your teen. Include things like sharing email accounts and online usernames and passwords. Identify social networking sites and apps that are safe to use and others that are off limits. Check out more safe internet practices below.
- Don’t share personal information online, including your full name, address, phone number, and Social Security number.
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi networks.
- Don’t let anyone else use your phone, laptop, or tablet.
- Don’t accept friend requests from strangers.
- Don’t open emails from unknown senders.
- Don’t click on links or download anything without first clearing it with an adult.
- Don’t share photos online or through texts or IMs.
3. Keep Things Out in the Open
Store computers, laptops, tablets, and phones in a central place in your home where you can monitor activity and enforce other boundaries.
Set limits for screen time, including time spent on a smartphone, online gaming, or any other web-based activity your kids are into. Teach them to stay away from strangers on the internet—whether it’s an email from an unknown source, a suspicious link, or a friend request they don’t recognize. If they’re unsure, encourage them to run things by you so you can decide together whether something is safe or not.
4. Put Protections in Place
Use a parental control filter to help limit your teen’s exposure to inappropriate content. Parental controls can give you valuable intel on your child’s online activities and alert you to potential red flags.
If you’re worried about violating your teen’s privacy, look for a parental control app that’s designed to watch out for danger rather than spy on your child. There are a lot of apps out there that let parents know about potential risks without exposing details that could make your teen feel disrespected and violated.
And always make sure the privacy settings are up and running on all devices, apps, and programs that your teen uses. Make sure they know how to secure their smartphone from hackers and other cyberthreats.
5. Connect Online
Stay in the know about all of your teen’s social network profiles, and have them add you as a friend. This can be more than a safety precaution—it can also be a fun way to stay connected to your teen and build trust. But the primary benefit of friending your teen is the ability to recognize potential danger and nip it in the bud.
Make it a prerequisite that you are the first friend your child adds if they want to download a new social app or network. This not only gives you insight into what they’re doing online but also lets you learn about the app and its potential dangers.
6. Look for Signs of Trouble
Despite every effort to protect your child online, sometimes the bad stuff still gets through. No matter how safe you think your teen’s internet behaviors are, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for signs that things may not be as secure as you think. Look for these warning signs that your teen may be in trouble.
- Secretive behavior like hiding screens when you enter the room or trying to go online outside of supervision
- Creating new email accounts, social network profiles, etc.
- Becoming sullen or withdrawn
- Losing interest in friends or activities
- Displaying strong emotional responses after going online