Two schoolgirls look at a tablet screen

Parenting: 8 Strategies to Keep Your Child Safe — Online and Off

Kids can be easy targets on the internet and in person. A few strategies for parents and caregivers.

Set a good example limiting your own virtual consumption.  Set times and areas of your home that are technology free. This will not only show your child what responsible social media use looks like but it also creates more opportunities to bond with your kid. Similarly use your devices in pubic areas of the home. Though tough to follow, 'No devices in the bedroom' is a good rule for everyone.

Have strong security

...on all you devices, including a password manager, up-to-date software and operating systems and antivirus software. Cover your cameras and microphones when not in use to prevent hackers.

Set boundaries 

...about places they may go, people they may see, and things they may do. Review appropriate (in-person and online) behavior with them. Have conversations about what is appropriate to say or share.

  • Don't click on unknown attachments or too-good-to-be-true offers.
  • Tell them to never send compromising photos to anyone.
  • Tell your young children that if they are approached by an adult, they should stay alert because this may be a “trick. It's okay to say "No" and walk away if they feel threatened. 
  • Teach them to be kind.

Know important information 

Young children should know their full name, home phone number and how to use the telephone. Post your contact information where your children will see it: office phone number, cell phone, pager, etc. Know where they are going. Get the FBI's child ID app. Online, have their sign-in information.

Check their posts 

Check their social media and gaming profiles and posts. One way is to friend them on Facebook and other platforms so you can see what they are posting. Experts say not to go through their text messages unless there is cause for concern.

Review their settings 

Online, review the links, apps, games and places they can turn to. Each platform will have a link. Search "parental controls and privacy settings" for the name of the game, app or site you want. Turn off locations settings and set up a separate account for your child, setting age appropriate content. YouTube has this. Others like Google’s parent company, Meta, established policies enabling high privacy settings for users younger than 16 and making it more difficult for people your kids don’t know to chat with them. This includes SafeSearch settings to hide or blur inappropriate content. They also set up a link to report harassment

Talk, talk, talk — and listen  

Make sure they know they can turn to you without judgement. Having regular, casual conversations from an early age will make it easier for them to talk to you when there's a problem.  Let them know that they can also reach out to a trusted school counselor or teacher or even anonymously call and talk to someone. (See some resources below.)

Get help 

See the Google families site for more tips on privacy. You can download their Family Link app to supervise your child's Google Account. And they have a link on Facebook/Instagram for protecting teen privacy. Check if other providers have this too. Consumer Reports has a step by step guide to How to Use Parental controls on a Smartphone.

If setting parental controls, too daunting, find a tech person who can help with the settings as well as help you review your kids' social media, apps and games.

If you are worried your child has gotten into trouble you can reach out to a number of organizations, including the FBI. See also the resources below.

Additional resources

To report a safety concern on social media click on the link at FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube,  TikTok,  WhatsApp.

To talk to someone, call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) Hotline, 800-843-5678.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is a 24/7, confidential, multilingual hotline for victims, survivors, and witnesses of human trafficking.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also reach a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Learn more: Help Keep Your Child Safe From Violence, Exploitation and Abuse

Related: Protecting Your Child From Cyberbullying

TOP PHOTO: Parents and caregivers can help children stay safe online and off. © UNICEF/UN0551725/Dejongh
TOP PHOTO: Parents and caregivers can help children stay safe online and off. © UNICEF/UN0551725/Dejongh