A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety for Kids

Children across all grade levels are spending more time online, with teens spending about nine hours a day in front of screens. While logging on can be an essential part of attending class or communicating with friends and loved ones, there are an increasing number of dangers that children are exposed to every time they browse the internet, answer emails or comment on social media.

Tara Wisniewski is the Executive Vice President of Advocacy, Global Markets and Member Engagement at (ISC)², which runs the Center for Cyber Safety and Education as its charitable foundation. She said that parents need to up their level of engagement with their children’s online activities across all platforms if they want to keep their kids safe.

When talking about internet safety, adults should teach children to have “the same rigor that we teach our employees, the same rigor that we talk about in the public domain for people not to become victims,” Wisniewski said.

And while much of internet safety curriculum for younger people focuses on issues such as cyberbullying or image sharing, data privacy and data breaches are also important topics that should be addressed.

“Parents need to be the frontline in making sure that children are not sharing information,” she said. If “someone asks them to share information, the warning flag goes up.”

Building Good Habits for Online Safety for Children

Adults can treat cybersafety like a regimen for staying healthy.

“As you teach a student how to operate a device, part of the lesson is really around hygiene—data privacy, good habits and making sure you reinforce awareness around predators and scamming,” Wisniewski said.

How to Practice Good Cyber Hygiene

Online safety for kids involves exercising these key precautions:

  • Change passwords regularly. Reduce risk of exposure to threats and make it a scheduled family activity providing opportunities for children to talk about computer use.
  • Avoid sharing personal information. Have friendly conversations with children about what is too much information and how others might use it.
  • Don’t post images and messages that identify locations or addresses. Describe how details can reveal too much personal information to scammers, thieves or predators.
  • Don’t respond to random people who reach out, especially strangers. Explain why children should be suspicious about receiving contact from strangers.
  • Don’t click to open anything that is from an unfamiliar source. Inform children that suspicious emails and texts with random links or attachments can harm their devices.
  • Report cyberbullying. Urge kids to tell trusted adults who will know if they should record evidence, report it to the appropriate authorities and block the bully.
  • Don’t use free, open WiFi connections. Explain how the danger of breaches to accounts and personal information increases when using public connections.
  • Clear browser history regularly. Erase stored passwords, preferences and frequented sites that can facilitate identity theft and fraud.

It is also crucial for adults to build trust with their children.

“The stronger the relationship at home, the earlier and the quicker that a child will report some kind of odd experience whether it’s a stranger reaching out or it’s a phishing email,” Wisniewski said.

Cybersafety Recommendations for Specific Dangers

Different initiatives from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice highlight various internet and social media safety problems for kids and what actions to take:


Problem: Bullying or harassment that happens online typically through text messaging, email, gaming or social media platforms.


  • Have regular conversations to encourage children to inform you about bullying behavior online or in person.
  • Remain calm, and tell the child not to respond or retaliate.
  • Block the bully from contacting the child again.
  • Save evidence, and if you feel the child is in danger, report to social media platforms, school officials and/or law enforcement.

Privacy and Identity Theft

Problem: Phishing and other online activities seeking details about your child and your family to access accounts, steal identities, commit fraud or perform other inappropriate or illegal activities.


  • Adjust privacy settings and use parental controls, especially for younger children.
  • Teach children not to reply to emails, texts or messages and not to open links or attachments from unknown sources.
  • Change passwords regularly and use password protection to launch devices and apps.
  • Explain the dangers of sharing personal information, photos and videos online, especially anything that can identify schools, home addresses or familiar locations.

Sexting, Pornography and Grooming

Problem: Exposure to sexually explicit photos, videos or messages that threaten the safety of your children and their reputations, potentially opening the door to contact from predators who are looking for victims to groom. Creating and sharing such content could be illegal.


  • Use parental controls and monitor emails, texts and messages, especially for younger children.
  • Discuss why it’s important to say no to inappropriate requests for body images and the consequences of sharing sexual/pornographic content.
  • Report anyone who persistently sends or requests sexually graphic material to social media platforms, school officials and/or law enforcement.

Other Inappropriate Content

Problem: Exposure to violent, racist, misogynist, nationalist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-Christian and similar material online that could influence or radicalize impressionable minds of children.


  • Use parental controls and monitor emails, texts and messages, especially for younger children.
  • Encourage children to use devices in open areas where their activities can be observed.
  • Explain the consequences of spreading hateful content.
  • Report anyone who persistently spreads hateful or other inappropriate content to social media platforms, school officials and/or law enforcement.

Fake News and Misinformation

Problem: Forming opinions and conclusions based on inaccurate or biased articles, videos and social media posts online about government, politics, voting, religion, immigrants, education, science, literature, social issues and more. Sharing inaccurate information.


  • Use parental controls to monitor online activities, especially for younger children.
  • Talk about credibility with older children and how to be a critical consumer of news and images.
  • Explain that their own reputation can be tarnished when they share misinformation.
  • Block accounts that send and post content that consists of fake news or unbalanced reporting and views.

The same way children are taught to think about the information they are given in real life is the way they should learn about information distributed online. Wiskiewski explained, “You don’t have to believe everything that you read, right? Maybe not everything that you read is the truth. I think the same kind of approach applies in social media.”

This article is for informational purposes only; individuals should consult with a professional for concerns about cybersecurity.

24 Resources for Kids’ Internet Safety

Here are places for parents to learn more about protecting their children from dangers of the internet:


  • Center for Cyber Safety and Education: nonprofit charitable trust working to ensure that people have a positive and safe experience online through education, scholarships and research.
  • Children and Screens: nonprofit organization that offers workshops and reports focused on media’s impact on child development and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration in medical, social science, educational and other communities.
  • Common Sense Media: independent, nonprofit and research-backed source of entertainment and technology recommendations for families and schools.
  • Internet Matters: global organization that supports parents and other adults working with children with information on managing internet risks.
  • Protect Us Kids: nonprofit foundation that raises awareness to protect children from predators who leverage cyberspace to exploit them.
  • Savvy Cyber Kids: nonprofit that helps parents and teachers guide children as they learn different technologies and how to use the internet appropriately and safely.

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