Are you wondering how to keep your children safe online? If so, you are not alone, a YouGov survey has found 71% of parents are concerned about the kinds of content their children could see, and 31% claim the internet is unsafe altogether. Here are the best online safety tips for kids to minimise the risks.
How young is too young to discuss online safety with your child?
With children using devices from as young as two years, it’s never too early to start talking about online safety with your child. A report from Ofcom has found that nearly all children aged 5-15 go online. Laptops, tablets and mobiles were the most used devices for online use by seven in ten of these children.
This is why having ongoing conversations with children about online safety and adapting the conversation to their age is so important when it comes to keeping them safe in the digital world.
With preschoolers start by teaching children basic online safety rules, such as not talking to strangers online, not sharing personal information, and only using digital devices with adult supervision.
With primary-aged children and tweens talk about the importance of using privacy settings, not accepting friend requests from strangers, gaming dangers, and reporting inappropriate behaviour.
Teens and secondary school kids need to know about cyberbullying, sexting, and online predators, and encourage them to talk to a trusted adult if they experience any online scams.
Why is online safety important for your kids?
You may feel your kids know more about tech and the online world than you do, but being born a digital native doesn’t make them alert to the many dangers, scams and frauds online. Part of helping them navigate the many pros of the digital world is to highlight the potential pitfalls and things they can do to stay safe online.
Be smart about phone use. While phones do have a lot of benefits, they can also expose children to a variety of risks., Talk to your child about phone safety and keeping their phone safe and secure with passwords.
Cyberbullying. This form of bullying occurs online and can have serious consequences for children's mental health and well-being. Children who are bullied online may experience depression, anxiety, and social isolation.
Privacy and security: Children may unwittingly share personal information online, such as their location or contact information, which can put them at risk for identity theft or other forms of exploitation. Children may also be exposed to inappropriate content, such as violent or sexually explicit material.
Viruses and malware are harmful computer programs. They can damage your PC, steal your personal information, including debit card details, and delete your data.. A lot of viruses can be unknowingly downloaded by children, as viruses can look like games, apps, or other safe programs.
Scams. There are a lot of scams targeted at kids on the internet that try to make them send money or give away information to the scammer. Often these scams will promise someone a gift for sending money.
Predators. Children may come into contact with adults online who pose as children, threatening their safety and well-being. Online predators may attempt to groom, manipulate, or exploit children for their own purposes.
Understanding online risks
Getting kids to understand online risks without scaring them requires a delicate balance between providing information about potential dangers and empowering them to make smart decisions without causing undue fear or anxiety.
Number one is controlling your fears and anxieties by researching online safety and ensuring you give them the right information. Going in too hard may stop some kids from listening to you, and not giving them the right information puts them at potential risk.
Here are 15 of the best strategies you can use to help keep your child safe online.
15 ways to keep your child safe online
1. Set boundaries & rules
Set boundaries and rules about being online. This means screen time limits using apps to monitor phone usage, games and sites they can and can’t use. Asking before they buy anything or download games and videos. With younger children, talk to them about not clicking links on YouTube after they watch something and with older kids, be sure they know to avoid clicking on suspicious links in message apps, SMS, and emails as well.
2. Use devices in communal areas
Another way to help keep your child safe online is to make them use tech devices in family areas, such as the living room. This way, you can monitor their internet activity and make sure they’re not accessing anything inappropriate or speaking to anyone they shouldn’t be. This will also encourage transparency and communication between you and your child about their online activity, which is essential for helping them stay safe.
3. Stay interested in their online activity
It’s important to take an interest in your child’s online activity, even if you don’t understand it all. This way you can better understand their internet use and spot any red flags.
Stay updated with the apps they're using, and ensure you set the necessary privacy and parental controls (see below). You can also check reviews online for games and sites they want to access that you haven’t heard about. And be sure to turn off in-app purchases for your kids and teens, so they need to come to you first if they want to buy something.
4. Use parental controls
Parental controls can be very useful in helping to keep your child safe online. They allow you to block inappropriate websites, set limits on internet use, and monitor your child’s activity.
Most platforms have built-in parental controls. For example, you can help your child stay safe on apps like TikTok and YouTube by using the settings that allow you to restrict access to certain content. Browsers also feature settings that allow you to block certain websites.
Related: How to use Android parental controls
5. Teach responsible online behaviour
This means helping your kids understand what is and isn’t appropriate to do online. Emphasise treating others with respect online, just as they would in person. This includes not engaging in cyberbullying or harassment, not sharing inappropriate content, and not engaging in hate speech.
6. Use safe search settings on search engines
Most search engines have safe search settings that filter out inappropriate content. This can be a useful resource for helping to keep your child safe online, as it means they’re less likely to stumble across something that isn’t suitable for them. To activate safe search on Google, click Settings and select SafeSearch. You can then choose to turn on the explicit results filter, which will exclude websites with adult content.
7. Check whether apps and games are suitable for your child
Before allowing your child to use a particular app or social media platform, it’s important to check whether it’s suitable for their age group. This includes looking at the age range for a particular platform and the privacy settings and terms and conditions. Reading reviews of the app or social media platform can also be worthwhile, as these can give you a better idea of its safety measures and appropriateness.
8. Teach your kids to recognise and avoid online scams
Educate kids about common online scams such as phishing scams, fake charities, and online shopping scams. Explain how these scams work and what signs to look for to avoid them. Also, encourage them to question everything and to question any offers or requests they receive online. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
9. Don’t share personal details
Talk to your kids about protecting their personal information, such as their full name, address and phone number and school private. They should also be encouraged to use strong passwords and not share them with anyone.
10. Download with permission only
Some gaming and video downloads contain malware and viruses that can harm or monitor your PC to see passwords or other important services. So set a rule not to download anything without asking your permission first.
11. Don’t send money to people you don’t know
Many online scams try to push/manipulate kids to send money online. Teach your children how to keep their money safe online and to tell a trusted adult if someone asks/demands money or they have fallen for a scam.
12. Set strong and secure passwords
Talk to your kids about setting secure passwords. They shouldn’t use obvious ones (like using ‘password’) or set complicated ones they can’t remember. The best passwords are phrase passwords that are hard to break, with a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Encourage your child to choose a phrase-password that is easy for them to remember. It could be a line from their favourite show or something your family only says.
13. Be careful who you make friends with
As a kid, making friends online can be an exciting way to connect with others who share similar interests. However, not everyone is who they say they are online, so advise your kids to not chat with strangers and ignore comments people make when they are playing online games. Tell them if something feels off or uncomfortable, trust their instincts and end the conversation. If someone is behaving inappropriately or making you feel uncomfortable, you can report their behaviour to the platform's moderator or block anyone that is acting inappropriate.
14. Talk to an adult if something bad happens
Sometimes, upsetting things happen online. Your child might see something that frightens them, accidentally do something you’ve told them not to do or be upset by how someone is speaking to them. Ensure they know that whatever happens, you are there to help and give advice, and that you won’t be angry if they come to you for help.
15. Track online spending
If your child is old enough to have their own debit card or prepaid debit card, it can be important to track their online spending. This includes in-app purchases they make, as well as subscriptions they sign up for. Tracking this activity can help you ensure your child isn’t overspending and you are aware of what they are doing online.
It can be a good idea to set limits on how much your child can spend online. This helps to prevent poor money management habits. The GoHenry app allows you to set spending limits for your child and monitor online activity and transactions with instant notifications. This way, you can be sure that they’re staying safe online and that their spending is within sensible parameters.
Online safety games for kids
There are plenty of great online safety games out there to teach your kids about safety while on their devices.. Cloud Quest is a fun, interactive adventure website with videos and activities teaching your kids about online safety designed for kids under the age of 10. While Safe Online Surfing – has a range of fun games, from word searches to matching games, aimed at kids aged 7 to 13. Encourage your child to give them a try.
Learn more about GoHenry’s parental control features
Monitor your child's spending with instant notifications, and set spending limits with a GoHenry kids’ debit card. It’s a great way to keep an eye on your child's spending. Alongside real-time notifications, you can set limits on where your child spends their money to ensure that they don't spend too much on or offline. Our in-app Money Missions also teach your children about financial responsibility with bite-sized lessons and quizzes on a wide range of subjects, from online scams to the value of money.
Online safety tips for teens