FAQs: Keeping Kids Safe Online

While there is no single way to keep kids safe online, the most important thing is communication. Talking with your children is the #1 factor in keeping them safe.

Our Kids, in collaboration with the Metro Nashville Police Department, has created a few key actions you can take to keep your kids safe online.

Gaming, screen time and smartphones 

Is my child ready for a smartphone?

A few key questions with links to other sites about parental controls and apps

How can I make my child’s device safe?

7 safety tips for every parent after a smartphone purchase

How do I know which apps are safe to use?

Learn about messaging apps and find a 1-page tip sheet for the most commons apps, as well as the top 3 things parents should know about each

How much time should my child spend playing electronic games?

See the online gaming guide for parents

How do I know what games are safe?

The safer gaming guide includes a list of links for everything from understanding game ratings to Xbox parental controls

How do I begin talking about gaming with my tween/teen?

The family discussion guide is a great starter list for talking with your child and setting rules about gaming and safety

Sexting

What is sexting?

The sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cellphone or tablet

What are the consequences of sexting?

Social

Socially, it can be devastating. Regardless of initial intentions or promises to keep images private, often they are shared.

  • Sharing images may occur after a break-up
  • The images can also be used for blackmail, to force the teen to continue sending additional, sometimes more explicit images
  • Even when images are sent over an app with limited viewing time, screenshots can be made, giving permanence to something that was intended to be temporary

Legal

Legally, it can be costly and devastating for your child if they are the ones requesting or keeping sexually explicit photos. Consequences are handled differently in every state and around the world, so consequences vary.

  • Some states prosecute minors to the full extent of the law, resulting in severe punishment up to and including the requirement to register as a sex offender for life.
  • Other states have developed diversionary programs to educate teenagers and change behaviors.
  • In Tennessee, regardless of the age of the person, having sexually explicit images of children on a device is considered child pornography. Child pornography is a felony sex crime with long-lasting legal consequences. Currently, a concerned group plans to present a bill in 2016 that would create specific and less severe consequences for sexting; separating it from the category of child pornography.

School

Children and teens can be suspended or expelled from school as a result of sexting.

Is sexting that common?

27% of teens claim sexting is frequent and normal. 

58% of teenagers feel that it is safe to post photos or intimate details online.

What do I do if I find out my child has been sending or receiving sexually explicit images?

First and foremost, DON’T PANIC. It’s scary. Your reaction will likely influence your child’s reaction and the additional information they are willing to share.

Because every community handles the situation differently, here are some general rules:

When your child has received or sent nude images to an adult:

  • Take your child’s phone/device.
  • DO NOT delete images or messages.
  • DO NOT contact the person, even to say “I’m the parent, stop contacting my child.” This will give the person an opportunity to delete images or contacts that have received the images.
  • Contact your local police department and let them know what is happening.

When your child has received or sent nude images from to another minor:

  • Take your child’s phone/device.
  • DO NOT delete images or messages.
  • DO NOT contact the other child.
  • Contact the school administrator and/or School Resource Officer. Most schools have policies on how to handle this type of situation.

Other resources 

Clean up your digital footprint

All of us have one. Take these 7 simple yet challenging steps to becoming a good digital parent.

Get to know the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI)

An international, nonprofit membership organization working to develop a safer internet through best practices, tools and guides.

Bookmark the Children’s Safety Network Resource Guides

These guides touch on everything from bullying to internet safety to driving.