Help Keep Your Children SAFE Online

Top Online Threats for Kids

It’s nearly impossible to keep kids off the internet these days. From homework assignments to FaceTime with Grandma, the internet is a fact of life. 

Unfortunately, it’s not all academia and family connections—the internet can be a risky place, especially for children. But you don’t have to go it alone. SafeWise has identified the top online threats to kids and tips for keeping kids safe.

There are a number of potential dangers in cyberspace, but these are the top three online security risks that most kids face.

1. Cyberbullying: Almost 34% of kids age 12–17 have been cyberbullied at some point in their life, and 11.5% have bullied someone else online. Cyberbullying is any aggressive, threatening, or mean-spirited activity conducted via electronic communication (email, social media posts, text messages, etc.). Girls are more likely to be the victims of cyberbullying, and more boys admit to bullying others online.

2. Online predators: Adults who use the internet to entice children for sexual or other types of abusive exploitation are considered online predators. Child victims can be as young as 1 or as old as 17. When it comes to online enticement, girls make up the majority (78%) of child victims—while the majority (82%) of online predators are male. And 98% of online predators have never met their child targets in real life.

3. Exposure to inappropriate content: Inappropriate content is one of the most common online threats that kids encounter. Everything from vulgar language and hate speech to graphically violent or sexual images can have a harmful effect on an impressionable child. Over 55% of tweens (kids age 10–12) have been exposed to violent content on the internet, and nearly 60% have come across sexually explicit words or images.

How to Protect Your Kids from Cyberbullying

1. Know the risks: Understand what cyberbullying is, where and how it happens, and how to spot it. Explain that online bullies can act friendly at first, but also encourage your child to be on the lookout for any interactions that make them feel bad, scared, or sad.

2. Talk about it: Have ongoing discussions with your child. Talk about what cyberbullying is and what types of communication are acceptable and unacceptable. Make sure your child knows that it’s safe for them to talk to you if something makes them uncomfortable.

3. Keep a watchful eye: Place the computer in a common room and monitor all screen time. Use a shared email account, and if you let kids interact on social media, make sure you have full access to manage their accounts. Parental control software is another great way to stay in the know.

4. Set boundaries: Put time limits on screen time. Include all online activities—from homework to playing games and surfing the web. Restrict social media access and email accounts, and set rules for any IM, texting, etc. Let your kids know you’ll be checking in regularly.

5. Build a network (IRL): They don’t say it takes a village for nothing. The more people you have looking out for your kid online, the more likely you are to keep them safe. Know your kids’ friends and their parents. Enlist support from school, sports, and church leaders.

6. Be prepared to respond: Don’t wait until the heat of the moment to come up with your gameplan. In case your kid does get bullied online, learn what the proper responses are so you can keep your emotions in check and help your child deal with what they’re going through.

How to Protect Your Kids from Online Predators

1. Understand the danger: Learn what online predators are, where and how predators attack, and how to spot it. Explain that contact from strangers is never okay.

2. Guide online behaviors: Talk about what types of online interactions are okay and what aren’t. Discuss how to recognize signs of trouble and how to ask for help.

3. Rein in digital cameras: Control access to digital cameras and photo apps on every device. Make sure your kids can’t upload or download photos without your permission.

4. Monitor online activity: Keep the computer in a common room, set limits on screen time, use a shared email account, and put parental controls (like filters and apps) in place.

5. Keep kids out of dangerous places: Talk about the risks of chat rooms and social networks, and set up rules and time limits if you allow your kids to use them. Always follow age restrictions for websites and apps.

6. Don’t let your guard down: Know that “safe” places still require vigilance. There are kid-focused chat rooms and games where predators may pose as children.

How to Protect Your Kids from Inappropriate Online Content

1. Teach kids how to navigate the internet: Talk about proper online etiquette, how to enter safe search terms, how to identify a secure website (https), and when to ask an adult for help.

2. Let kids know what to watch for: Teach them that bad stuff can come from many sources, including email and direct messages. Talk about inappropriate websites, pop-up ads, and when and where it’s okay to click on something.

3. Explain email safety: Make sure kids know not to click on things or open attachments in emails and not to respond to messages from people they don’t know. Have them ask an adult before they download anything.

4. Set up firewalls and content blockers: Use the built-in safety applications that come on your devices and add more to be extra safe. Block all websites that aren’t rated safe for children. Use a content filter or firewall that is designed to protect children from harmful content.

5. Be prepared: Have a plan in place in case your child is exposed to graphic content online. Know what the proper responses are so you can focus on helping your child manage their feelings.

More Resources to Help with Online Safety for Kids

This guide is the perfect starting point to make sure you know the basics for keeping kids safe on the internet. But online threats are constantly changing, and cybercriminals are getting more sophisticated. To help you stay ahead of the curve, here are some of the resources we recommend.

Internet Safety Classes and Workshops

State and Local Internet Safety Resources

Tools to Keep Kids Safe Online

More Educational and Support Resources