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Children / Teens/Tweens

The tools every parent must know to keep your kids safe on the Internet

The tools every parent must know to keep your kids safe on the Internet

One of the parents from my daughter’s class, Chris Roberts, created this checklist for ensuring our younger “web surfers” remain safe. I think it’s a great list, so, with his permission, I am sharing it here for safe explorations.

 For the younger children – 12 and under:

1.    Create separate user accounts for each child on the home computer.

2.    Enable strict content filtering on the computer.

3.    Install anti-virus, malware software, etc.

4.    Establish a select list of sites they’re allowed to visit. (We talk about the sites they want to visit, spend time on them together, and then I go through the sites and click through as deep as I can to understand the site content, culture, links, and ads, if they have them.) If I think they’re okay, then they’re added to the list.

5.    Enable YouTube Safe Mode on all web browsers (no matter what the age of user). Remember, you have to enable the safe mode per child, per account set up.    

6.    Set time limits on computer use just as you would with TV or video games.

7.    Restrict online gaming (unless you play directly with your child and know the other people in real life.) So that means no Xbox Live premium membership or playing games on the Wii connected to the Internet.

8.    Use Google SafeSearch their search engine (no matter what the age of the user)

9.    Use third party monitoring software that flags/detects any concerning phrases or words.

10.  Talk to your kids about what you learn/know is going on related to kids and technology (We talk about cyberbullying, sexting, and kids being mean to others. Ask them what they think, what they’d do so you will have listened and learned. Then provide your advice. Practice role-playing with your kids.

11.  Teach your kids what to do if someone isn’t nice to them online: “don’t respond, tell your mom, make a copy”.

12.  Teach your kids about the importance of not sharing their personal information online. (Last name, school, phone number combined with address)

13.  Talk to your children about the importance of being kind & respectful to others online.

14.  If your child has a cell phone, the rules are: open cell phone policy; phones stored at night. Add a service like “Smart Limits” from AT&T, which makes it easier for your children to follow your rules (i.e. you can turn the cell phone off at night, during class, etc.). Preferable cell phone for kids 12 and under = non-smart phone.

15.  If your child doesn’t follow your rules, make sure there are consequences. Technology is a privilege, not a right. Have your children help pay for services such as their cell phone or memberships to special sites. They learn to appreciate what they have.

Children ages 13 – 17: Most of the same advice and guidelines apply, except:

1.    The list of select sites allowed to visit will expand. As kids get older, particularly in high school where they need to access lots of sites for homework, it’s really hard to keep the list of sites to a select few. You’ll know when your child’s homework requires that access to information be increased.

2.    As the list of sites your teen is exposed to increases, check the browsing history and be sure to go 5 – 10 pages deep within the site. Often what’s behind the home page is different. Know the content, culture and people your child is exposed to.

3.    Know your children’s friends on the social network they belong to. It’s important to delete anyone they don’t know in real life.

4.    Know their password, log into their account. If applicable, be their “friend” on the network.    – Do not allow your child to provide websites with their personal information. This is usually requested by adult-intended networks like Facebook (i.e. first name + last name+ DOB + school+ cell phone + exact physical location + IM + email.) While a birth date and email may be needed to sign up, it shouldn’t be displayed.

5.    Do not allow your child to use the applications that allow a third party to access all their information. Read those Terms of Use policies. Talk to your kids about why they shouldn’t. Ask if they’d ever give their photos, friend contact information etc. out to strangers. They wouldn’t. You wouldn’t.

6.    Disable Facebook Places and photo geo-tagging.

7.    Talk to your kids about the photos they post. Ask them what impression a photo they post gives another person that may or may not know them. It’s a good way to open up dialogue and to help them think beyond the moment or tomorrow.

8.    Sign up for Google Alerts with your children’s names.

9.    Remove your family contact information from sites like Spokeo, Pipl and Zaba Search.

Got kids 18 and older? Your child is on the way to college and starting to live their own life. You will need to continue to support your family values through conversation and action. Ultimately, though, by this age they need the opportunity to be on their own on the Internet, but grounded in the up bringing we’ve provided. That said, the dialogue continues.

Amber Johnson
Author: Amber Johnson

Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

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Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.


  1. As a recent mother, whose job is to keep other people’s information secure, I am increasingly thinking about how I will keep my daughter safe online as she grows up.

    I work for a company which provides a secure file sharing system for high security businesses like banks, so am particularly aware of the risks from many free file sharing products.

    Some consumer products, like Dropbox, have had security problems – from privately shared links appearing in Google search results to criminals using the site’s perceived credibility to share malware with unsuspecting users. Young people will use these products, but they should be cautious about putting anything private on there.

    A few simple steps will help keep data secure. First, pick a file sharing service that lets you create “private” folders, so that only people with access credentials can see files. Second, get into the habit of deleting files once they’ve been shared, and if you’ve already shared files that are sensitive, delete those too.

  2. From personal experience: Get rid of the webcam. Webcams can be a great way to communicate with your friends and family, but leaving a teen unsupervised with a webcam can lead to your child’s strip show debut.

  3. Here’s my tip. Invest in monitoring and filtering software. Programs such as NetNanny and CyberPatrol can help you monitor your child’s activities and block inappropriate websites. However, be aware that these programs do not replace a watchful parent and can easily be disabled by computer savvy teens.

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