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These days, we’re all spending more time than usual on the web — and this goes for kids and teens, too. As a parent, you want to make sure that your kids have a safe experience every time they are online. There is plenty to be wary of on the Internet, too. Not only are there viruses and hackers who can steal your information, but there are also cyberbullies, inappropriate content, and online predators that target kids and teens.

Kids and teens need to use the internet to research school assignments, communicate with teachers and other students, play interactive games, and complete other essential tasks. It can be a wonderful place to learn and socialize. But parents need to be aware of what their kids see and hear on the Internet, who they meet, and what they share about themselves. To help you make sure your kids have a safe online experience, here are some guidelines to follow.

General Guidelines

Kids and teens use the Internet in different ways and for a variety of purposes as they grow up, and every age group comes with its own parental concerns and activities to regulate. But there are also some general guidelines that are good to keep in mind for kids and teens of all ages.

Keep Usernames and Passwords Safe

Many of the websites your kids use require usernames and passwords. Make sure they know not to give this information out to anyone — even to friends. People might not mean any harm, but even well-intentioned pranks can go awry and get your kids in trouble. Keep usernames and passwords private and be sure to change passwords if you suspect anyone has gotten ahold of them.

Change Passwords Intermittently

In addition to reminding your kids to keep their passwords private, it's also a good idea to change them all intermittently. Data breaches happen all the time and passwords get leaked, exposing you to threats of identity theft and other cybersecurity issues. Set up a schedule to change passwords on your accounts every 3-6 months or anytime accounts or platforms report hacking or data breaches. You can use a password manager to keep track of all your passwords online and make it easy for your kids to find them.

Don’t Give Out Personal Information Online

Kids and teens should never tell anyone their full real name, address, neighborhood, phone number, etc. online. The general rule is to never give out any information that could lead a predator to find them. Even small details like the name of their school or sports team are enough to give away their identity. If your kids use any sites, like social media platforms, that allow strangers to contact them, make sure they know to keep this information private.

Be Discerning on Social Media

Speaking of social media platforms, they require extra care and consideration for kids and teens. The internet is vast, yes, but embarrassing pictures, rude comments, and personal information can leave a strong mark — and often a permanent one. Remind your kids that anything they post online immediately becomes public property and anyone can view it. Even private accounts get leaked or attacked by hackers occasionally. You don’t want anything coming back to haunt your kids in the years to come, so encourage them to be discerning about what they post.

Use a Trusted Cybersecurity Solution

Kaspersky Safe Kids helps you protect your kids when they are online. You can use it on all of your child’s devices. It includes an app on the device plus an app on your phone, which lets you see reports and customize settings. It has parental controls built into the software and it even allows you to manage their screen time by device.

Check Age Requirements

Many apps and websites have their own age restrictions to set up accounts, browse, or become a member. But the problem is that most of these sites don’t actually have age verification in place to check. For instance, Facebook, Snapchat, and Myspace only allow users 13 and up, but kids can just report a false age and sign up anyway.

Explain Location Sharing

Almost every app and website these days have some kind of geo-tagging or location-sharing feature. Kids and teens need to know the dangers of sharing their location so they don’t agree to this term or unknowingly click the pop-up boxes that allow it. Making their location publicly visible leaves them exposed to all kinds of dangerous behaviors, from online predators who can find them to risks of identity theft. Make sure kids know what it means when apps ask if they can share location.

Create a List of Internet Rules

One of the best ways to manage Internet use for kids of all ages is to sit with them and come up with a list of Internet rules specific to your needs. You can introduce them to kid- and teen-friendly sites, talk to them about why it’s important to put rules in place, and encourage them to tell you if they feel uncomfortable or threatened by anything they find on the Internet, etc. Set boundaries, but be realistic.

Use the Golden Rule Online, Too

Teach your kids and teens that the Golden Rule applies just as much to online interactions as it does to face-to-face communication. Kids should be kind and polite when interacting with people online or leaving comments and should say nothing over text they wouldn’t say to someone’s face. Teach them that this applies even if they are posting anonymously. Not only is it hurtful and inconsiderate to others to post mean or unflattering things, but it can also damage your child's reputation.

Set Parental Controls

Set up and review parental controls on all your devices at age-appropriate levels. These controls help protect children from accessing inappropriate content online. You can use them in several ways — for example, to help ensure that your children access only age-appropriate content, to set usage times, to monitor activity, and to prevent the sharing of personal information. You can also use filtering and monitoring tools on top of parental controls. Check these periodically to make sure you have the software updated, etc. Learn about potentially dangerous apps and websites for kids.

Run Antivirus Programs

In addition to parental controls, run antivirus software on all your devices. This software protects internet-enabled devices from incoming threats and seeks out, destroys, and warns of possible threats to the system. Antivirus software keeps up with the latest threats and stays on top of new viruses, which come out all the time.

Explain Fake Ads

Talk to your kids about Adware and other fake ad scams they might encounter on the Internet. Some of these ads look like real offers that might entice kids to download a fake app, sign up for a sweepstake, or offer personal information in exchange for free products. They can also come in the form of links to share with friends or post on social networks. If kids know that these types of ads and scams exist, they'll be less likely to fall for them if they run into them online.

Educate Kids About Meeting Strangers in Person

Kids should never meet up with strangers they met online unless you are there to supervise the meeting. Teach your kids and teens not to interact with people they don’t know offline. Online predators or cyberbullies can disguise themselves so your kids might not know they are talking to someone who found them online.

Monitor Internet History

For all ages, it’s a good idea to periodically spot-check your browser history to get a sense of what sites your kids and teens are visiting. Make sure that your settings have history tracking enabled and that you check it across all Internet-enabled devices. If you come across any fishy sites, ask your kids or teens about them. Make sure you have maximum transparency about monitoring their usage so they don't feel spied on.

kids guidelines

Age-Based Guidelines

In addition to general guidelines, there are also some age-specific guidelines to keep in mind when it comes to the internet.

Two-to-Four-Year-Olds

  • No solo Internet time
  • No frightening images, real or fictional
  • Don’t allow them to click or follow links
  • Limit computer time
  • Introduce basic computer skills with age-appropriate games and educational programs

Five-to-Seven-Year-Olds

  • No solo Internet or phone time
  • No frightening images, real or fictional
  • Don’t allow them to click or follow links
  • Use kid-friendly search engines with parental controls
  • Set up age-appropriate filters
  • Limit time online
  • Limit kids to a list of favorite sites that you curate together
  • Make sure Internet-connected devices are in an open area where you can see them
  • Block the use of IM, email, chat rooms, mobile Internet, text, picture and video messaging, and access to message boards
  • Instruct kids to never give out personal information online

Eight-to-Ten-Year-Olds

  • Talk to your kids about what they are interested in using the Internet for
  • Educate your kids about the dangers posed by the Internet
  • Instruct kids to never give out personal information
  • Avoid any frightening imagery
  • Instruct kids about how to communicate appropriately with friends online
  • Encourage kids to tell you if they encounter something online that makes them uncomfortable
  • Sit with kids when they are online or restrict use to sites you have approved
  • Keep Internet-connected devices in an open common area
  • Set age-appropriate parental controls
  • Use filtering and monitoring tools
  • Use kid-friendly search engines
  • Don’t allow IM, chat rooms, or social networking sites meant for older audiences.
  • Have your child use the same email address as you do or a dedicated address you share
  • Encourage kids to talk openly to you about their activity online

Eleven-to-Thirteen-Year-Olds

  • Keep Internet-connected devices out of your kids’ bedrooms
  • Set age-appropriate parental controls
  • Use filtering and monitoring tools
  • Keep in mind all internet-enabled devices, such as cell phones, gaming devices, iPods, and PDAs.
  • Encourage kids to talk about online activities and people they meet
  • Instruct kids never to give out personal information without your permission
  • Instruct kids never to set up face-to-face meetings with people they meet online.
  • Insist on access to your kids’ email and IM accounts
  • Limit IM to a buddy list that you approve
  • Block access to chat rooms
  • Instruct kids about talking to strangers on the internet
  • Teach kids about non-ethical online behavior, including bullying, spreading gossip, making threats, using foul language, etc.
  • Check browser histories to monitor kids’ online behaviors
  • Abide by the minimum age requirement on social platforms (i.e. 13-years-old for Myspace and Facebook)
  • Encourage kids to use age-appropriate sites like TweenLand, ClubPenguin, etc.
  • Do not allow kids to post pictures or videos without your approval

Fourteen-to-Eighteen-Year-Olds

  • Come up with a list of Internet rules for your house
  • Set age-appropriate parental controls
  • Use filtering and monitoring tools
  • Get familiar with the messaging apps your teens use
  • Don’t forget about internet-enabled devices besides computers, such as cell phones, gaming devices, iPods, and PDAs
  • Keep internet-enabled devices in an open area out of your kids’ bedrooms
  • Talk to teens about friends they meet online and online activities
  • Talk to teens about keeping strangers off their IM list and set up a buddy list with them
  • Make your teens ask you for approval before meeting any online friends
  • Accompany teens when meeting anyone they met online and don’t know in person already
  • Educate teens about not giving out personal information
  • Teach teens about non-ethical online behavior, including bullying, spreading gossip, making threats, using foul language, etc.
  • Protect teens from Spam by instructing them not to give out their email address online or respond to junk mail
  • Educate teens about copyright laws and other responsible online behavior
  • Monitor any financial transactions teens make online, including ordering, buying or selling items
  • Encourage teens to talk to you about any inappropriate material or unwanted sexual comments they receive online
  • Educate teens about things to look for or ask before downloading files off the Internet
  • Spot-check your browser history to see what sites your teen has been visiting

Keeping your kids safe online is just as important as keeping them safe when they are interacting with the world face-to-face. There are so many reasons kids want and need to use the Internet these days, from researching school assignments to attending virtual events to extracurricular learning to interactive gaming with friends. The internet can be a rich resource and an exciting place to hang out as long as kids and teens know how to use it safely and avoid any dangers they might encounter.

Practicing online safety means talking to your kids consistently about how and why they use the Internet and making sure that you have a safety protocol in place to protect them. Understanding why your kids and teens go online, who they interact with, and what sites they visit is an important part of ensuring their safety. It's also crucial to educate them as to the risks of surfing the Internet, how to safely and politely interact online, and what to do if they encounter something inappropriate.

Talk with your kids, use tools to protect them, and monitor their activities. Use Kaspersky Internet Security to minimize any potential threats online, including malware, spyware and trojans. The Total Security Suite also offers bank-grade protection for your online payments while keeping your data safe with a VPN. Discover today how Kaspersky can help you protect your family from potential threats online.

Further reading

Kids online safety: Apps and websites parents need to know about

Top 10 Ways to Stop Cyberbullying

Top 7 Online Gaming Dangers & Risks for Kids and Teens

Internet Safety: Age-Based Guidelines for Kids and Teens

It’s important to teach your kids about internet safety at every age. Learn more about our age-based recommendations to keep them safe online.
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