Kids use the internet for fun and learning. As they get older, the internet is a way for them to talk to friends and meet other kids.
Unfortunately, the internet also has content they should not see. But you can create a safer environment for the child. The most important thing is to talk to your child regularly.
How to talk to kids about things they see online
Conversations should begin as soon as your child has access to the internet. Start the discussion by talking about the positives of using the internet. Ask them what they want to explore or learn. Valuing their opinion involves them in the process.
At the same time, tell your child that the internet has places that are not safe for kids. Tell them they:
- May see content that makes them uncomfortable
- May find content you do not want them to see
- Can always talk to you or another adult they trust if they see something upsetting
5 steps to take to keep kids safe online
1. Explore sites and apps with your child
Have discussions about the content they enjoy. Ask what they like about their favorite games or sites. Show them how and where to find safe content.
2. Be open-minded
Kids have different tastes. They also have different ideas of how to use technology. Stay positive as they explore. Be curious and listen to your child as they talk about using the internet. If children feel scared or ashamed, they are less likely to talk about their experiences later.
3. Agree to ground rules
Set boundaries for the websites and apps your child can use. Clearly communicate which apps and sites are safe for them. Explain that these rules apply inside and outside your home.
4. Explore parental controls
You can block unsafe content with Google SafeSearch and YouTube Restricted Mode. Apply these safeguards on every device in the home. If you’re unsure where to start, use the Internet Matters checklist.
5. If you or your child see something troubling, stay calm and be curious.
Avoid blame or criticism. At some point, children are likely to see something you do not want them to see. What they see will not have a lasting impact, but your reaction could. You can:
- Praise them for their courage to come to you
- Listen to them and help them process what they’ve encountered
- Remind them that the family rules are there to keep them safe
Resources we trust
Starting a Conversation About What Children See Online | internetmatters.org
Parental Controls | internetmatters.org
Family Agreement | childnet.com
Let’s Talk About Life Online (PDF) | childnet.com