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Online Safety

Children are going online at younger and younger ages. Schools, libraries, coffee shops, and most homes now have Internet access. Many grade schools now require children to have tablet computers. Many children have smartphones. Besides phone calls, children can play games, text, email, video chat, take and share photos, and browse the Internet.

It is important for you to be educated and to talk with your children about staying safe online. Nothing is as helpful as good parental supervision.

What are some tips for kids?

  • Make sure your posts and profiles on social networking sites are set to be viewed by close friends only. This still may not protect information from being used by people you don't know. Once you post text, photos, and video, they can be copied and pasted, and can stay online forever.
  • Don't give out personal information. It is a good idea not to use your real first or last name in chat rooms or blogs. Never give out your address, school, or phone number.
  • Never agree to meet with someone you've met online without your parent's permission. People online may not be who they seem. It is easy for a person to pretend to be someone they are not. Someone saying they are a 13-year-old girl could actually be a 50-year-old man.
  • Never enter online contests. These are almost always a scam. Remember, not everything you read online is true. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Don't respond to messages that are mean or threatening or make you feel uncomfortable. Let your parents know if this happens.
  • Be polite and kind to others online. Never use the Internet to spread rumors, gossip, hateful messages, or to threaten others.
  • Do not open email from an email address you don't recognize. Never download an email attachment from someone you don't know. Messages may contain viruses or be from someone who is not safe.
  • Do not give out passwords to anyone, not even your best friend! It's only OK to give them to your parents.
  • Do not download software, music, or files without permission.
  • Be careful about apps. Some apps may be able to access:
    • Your phone and email contacts
    • A record of your phone calls
    • Your location
    • Information about how you use the app
  • Never copy something from the Internet and say you wrote it.
  • Never text while driving. Turn off your phone in the car or pull over if you need to use it.

What are some tips for parents?

  • Set up clear rules with your kids about using technology. Pay attention to whether they are following the rules. Put TVs and computers in common areas of your home and not in children’s bedrooms. This lets you monitor content more closely. Let them know that you will be checking the computer regularly to make sure they are safe.
  • Look at your own technology use. If you spend hours online, you are giving your kids the message that it's OK. Be a role model on balancing screen time with other healthy activities. Turn off cell phones and the TV during meals. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time per day for children and teens. Spending a lot of time on the computer takes away from other activities such as homework, sleep, exercise, or spending time with others.
  • Keep an eye on what sites your kids are visiting as well as how much time they are spending online. Sit with younger children while they are online. Check Internet use policies at your children’s school, library, or after-school care. Make sure they will be supervised while online. Talk about online bullying and what to do if it happens.
  • Always monitor your children's use of social media. Get to know their online friends just as you get to know all their other friends. Contact your Internet Service Provider and ask for help if harassment or cyber bullying occurs. You can also contact your local police department. Harassment is a crime whether it's in person or on the computer.
  • Talk with your kids about information they may find online, such as sex and violence. Be honest and specific. This helps them know what it is when they see it. Do not punish them when they come across something that might be bad. Help them talk about what they didn't understand. Discuss what to do if they feel uncomfortable as a result of something that happens while they are online.
  • Make sure your children check with you before ordering, buying, or selling items online. Monitor phone bills and credit cards for unfamiliar charges.
  • Use tracking software and parental controls provided by your service provider or the app or device designer. Parental controls can block or filter content based upon ratings, reports, labels, and safe zones. Some services allow you to add and remove sites from the banned list so that your children will only see what you want them to see. Parental controls are most needed between the ages of 7 and 16. Be aware that even with filters, your children may be able to gamble, buy drugs, or download software. Set clear rules about what online games your children can play and keep track of what your children download.
  • If any of your children receive any type of child pornography while online, immediately report this to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678. Also notify your online service. It is a crime to knowingly send pornography to children under the age of 18.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-01-05
Last reviewed: 2015-01-05
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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