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Threats to children’s internet safety include invasions of privacy, cyberbullying, and harassment. Options to protect your children include parental controls, apps, and tracking software. But the most effective way to keep your kids safe is to talk with them about online risks, how to avoid them, and how they can come to you when something goes wrong.


Internet safety for kids depends on parents being aware of online risks and understanding how to help their children and teens avoid them.

Almost every American child and teen has access to the internet. They socialize in online games or on smartphones just as they would on a playground. They live largely in a digital community. But, like any community, there are risks and dangers.

Parents are the best suited to monitor kids’ online activity. They are also the most likely to be turned to by a child who stumbles onto something they shouldn't. Understanding what sites your kids visit is vital to protecting them from digital threats.

What kids are doing online:

Source: Children’s Internet Usage Study, Center for Cyber Safety and Education

  • 30% have used the internet in ways their parents wouldn’t approve

  • 21% have visited sites where they can chat with strangers

  • 17% have visited "adult" sites

  • 11% have visited sites that offer ways to cheat on homework

  • 4% have visited online gambling sites

How Children and Teens Get Online

Ninety-five percent of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45 percent of teens say they are online “almost constantly,” according to the Pew Research Center.

Source: Children’s Internet Usage Study, Center for Cyber Safety and Education

Even younger kids are accessing the internet in large numbers. Roughly two-thirds of fourth to eighth graders have access to phones or tablets. And almost half of them have a computer in their bedrooms, according to the 2016 Children’s Internet Usage Study conducted by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education.

Explaining Internet Safety to Your Kids

Teaching your children about the online risks they may face and how to avoid or report threats is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure their safety online.

But first, you have to understand those risks for yourself. This means keeping up-to-date on the latest technologies, apps, and social media trends. It can be challenging, but it better prepares you to talk to your kids about what to expect online.

Online Dangers to Discuss with Your Kids

  • Dangerous or inappropriate websites

  • Malware and how it can be downloaded onto computers and phones

  • Online frauds and scams

  • Predators

You’ll also need to keep an open dialog with your kids. Let them know you are looking out for their safety and be sure to listen to their questions and concerns.

An open conversation can help them feel comfortable talking with you even about uncomfortable things they later encounter online. It will also help you better understand how your children use the internet.

Now what? Set some rules! Head over to our resource page for the lowdown on filters, apps and cyberbullying.

Terry Turner has been writing articles and producing news broadcasts for more than 30 years. An Emmy-winning journalist, he has reported on consumer policy issues before Congress, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies.


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