5 Tips to Help Kids Make Smart, Safe Online Decisions

By Rebecca Keller

My son is growing up, and the other day I realized that he’ll be 14 very soon. Bringing a kid up in this connected world can be pretty scary stuff! For example, the majority of kids, teens and tweens, computer use and social networking are a part of everyday life.

As parents, my husband and I worry our son and his activity online. Luckily there are ways to protect your children from posting dangerous information online.

Here are five tips to help kids make smart, safe decisions when using the Internet…

1. Screen and help your teen edit their profile for safety

My theory is that if you’re concerned about your child’s internet usage and want to find out about what they are doing online, ask them. Ask to view their social network profiles and tell them you just want to make sure they are surfing and networking safely. Don’t just demand to see their profile and expect them to show you (especially teens). Instead, give them adequate time to clean up their profile before you take a boo—believe me, just the idea of you seeing their profile will probably be enough incentive for them to remove any private information or incriminating pictures they’ve anyway. Then take a look at the profile with them to ensure they’re not giving away any private information (i.e., full name, addresses, contact information, school, etc.) or anything that a predator could use to track them down.

2. Discuss how to safely spend time online

As a writer I understand that a little context yields a lot of understanding. So knowing the reason why your child is online will help you keep them safe. For instance, if you know they just want to use the family computer to social network with friends on

Photo Credit: Michal Zacharzewski

Facebook, you know that they are familiar with all of their contacts and you can just use privacy settings to protect them from predators.

3. Talk to your teen about smart exposure

My rule with my own kids is don’t post anything publicly that you wouldn’t want me (as their parent to see). I’ve even got my son as my Facebook friend, which keeps us both on the up and up. I’ve also had a frank conversation with them about how employers use the Internet as a reference—so they need to be careful about what they post online for the safety of their future reputations. Remember, what goes on the net; stays on the net!

4. Make use of privacy settings

I’ve also asked that my son use the most restrictive privacy settings available on his social networking sites of choice. This way, when he uses Facebook, the personal information on his profile restricted to friends only. I’ve also asked that he make sure all contacts are actually friends that he knows well.

5. Check in every once in a while

Having my son on my own friends’ list means that I can check up on him every once in a while to ensure his online behavior is safe and smart. If I’m unsure about a new friend he’s added, I follow the cyber breadcrumbs to their profile to make sure their not dangerous. If I’m still not sure, I ask him directly who this person is. My son knows there are consequences to unsafe internet behavior. For instance, posting private status updates equals revoking of computer privileges; whereas responsible online behavior means he can buy his own computer with the Lenovo coupon I just got in the mail!

Rebecca Keller is a graduate of the Arts and Technology program at the University of Texas. An admitted tech-junkie, freelance writing about Android devices for AndGeeks.com offers the perfect outlet for a tech geek like Rebecca. When she’s offline, which isn’t very often, Rebecca enjoys volunteering for her local animal shelter and off road mountain biking.

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