For all ages
Teach your children to
- Think before
they click: With whom are they chatting or e-mailing, what are
they saying and how are they saying it? Will the person on the
other end know they are joking?
- Walk away from
the computer and “Take 5” before responding to something that
upsets them online.
spreading rumors, assisting in cyberbullying or sharing private
- Follow the
golden rule of cyberspace: Don’t do anything online that you
wouldn’t do in real life!
Follow responsible safety practices yourself:
- Install spyware and adware blocking software on your computer
- Make sure you have a working firewall
- Install anti-virus software and update it regularly
- Take advantage of spam-blocking tools offered by your Internet
provider or e-mail software
Under 8 Years Old
- Use filtering or parental control technologies. Block
everything that isn’t pre-approved, rather than just filtering
out the “bad” sites.
- Think about whether your children really need e-mail or IM,
and if you determine they do: block all communications from
anyone other than pre-approved senders and make sure their buddy
list is no longer than the age of the child and that you know
(in real life) everyone on it.
- Bookmark their favorite Web sites so they won’t mistype them
and end up at a “bad” site. Use kid-sized search engines such as Yahooligans and Ask Jeeves for Kids.
- Limit their online time to no more than a 1/2 hour a day,
unless they have a special project for school.
- Check with their teachers often for suggested Web sites and
for recommendations for good resources online.
- Don’t let them use interactive games, such as X-Box Live or
Sony Playstation network yet. Try Toontown.com instead.
- Sit down with them as often as possible and find out where
they go online, what they like and ask or answer any questions.
- Tell them to get your permission before posting any content,
including profiles and blogs, to a Web site or sending it via
e-mail or IM.
- Look for safe site lists you can trust. Check out WiredKids.org’s approved safe sites list.
Ages 8 to 10
- Raise the bar on filtering or parental control technologies if
you find they are complaining or are locked out of
school-recommended sites. Or make sure that you use a product
that will them send you an e-mail at work to let you unblock a
particular site. (MSN has this feature.)
- If you add IM, make sure only pre-approved senders can send
your child an IM.
- Use a pop-up blocker or toolbar (like Google’s), an antivirus
program and a spyware remover (this begins the age of dangerous
- Keep using the Yahooligans and Ask Jeeves for Kids search
- Make sure that they understand what information can and can’t
be shared online with anyone.
- Practice chatting online with them so they know how to handle
strangers they encounter online.
- Consider using a monitoring software to be able to review what
they are saying and doing.
- Keep a close eye out for spyware in case they accidentally
corrupt the files on the computer. Back everything up!
- Limit online time (aside from special school projects) to
under an hour a day (including all IM and text-messaging time).
Ages 10 to 12
- Raise the bar on parental controls and filtering programs.
- Start using full-sized search engines with filters applied
(check their advanced settings) or use a toolbar (Google’s comes
preset with a medium filter).
- Teach them not to divulge personal information and
double-check their IM “away messages” to make sure they’re not
posting their cell phone numbers there.
- Make sure they can’t share pictures online, or set up profiles
or blogs or webcams without your okay.
- Web sites they build should be reviewed carefully, as should
- Without going into details, warn them against predators – tell
them you are concerned about people showing up at the house.
- Give them privacy as long as it is with people you trust.
- Block all but pre-approved senders.
- Interactive games should still be limited to Toontown.com and
other kid-approved sites.
- Google their name, screen names, address, and telephone
numbers at least once a week. Many kids post nasty things about
others at this age.
- Make sure that you control the family account password and
have their passwords too. Lock your private files with a
password they don’t know. Change all passwords often.
- In addition to watching for spyware, search your computer
regularly for images (porn or of your kids), and any music,
movie or media files you don’t know about.
- Watch early media piracy, teach them not to steal online or
- Get them started in online safety education, check out wiredkids.org or internetsuperheroes.org. Check out starting a
tweenangel chapter at your local school. (For more information
- If they have a cell phone, make sure you know its ability to
play games and download images and software. Think about
limiting their cell phone usage in a way that shuts it down when
they exceed it, instead of just charging you extra.
Age 16 and over
- Teach them not to pirate software or motion pictures.
- Have them Google themselves often: screen names, telephone and
cell numbers, addresses, full names, nicknames, etc.
- Try and limit their use of chatrooms to monitored chatrooms or
themed chatrooms on safe topics.
- Limit their online use (including text-messaging) to under 90
minutes a day aside from a special school project).
- Keep them out of social network or online dating sites such as xanga.com, friendster.com or match.com.
- Talk to them about not meeting strangers offline, and agree to
go with them or teach them large group safe meeting tips (see wiredteens.org).
- Buy girls a copy of “A Girl’s Life Online” (formerly known as
“Katie.com”) to read.
- Keep the computer in a central location and watch new
interactive devices such as cell phones, text messaging devices
and interactive gaming devices, like Xbox Live. Use parental
controls if they come with them – Xbox does, for example.
- Consider setting up a teenangels.org chapter, or starting an
online safety club at their school. (Visit
Internetsuperheroes.org for available free materials.)
- All bets are off. If they have earned your trust, give it to
them. If not, unplug the computer and take away their cell
phones and interactive gaming devices.
- If you haven’t taught them what they need to know by now,
we’re all in trouble.
- Focus on teaching them to be responsible cybercitizens and to
use the filter between their ears.
- Emphasize again the risks of sharing personal information and
meeting strangers offline.
- Make sure they Google themselves often and report what they
- Teach them to use anti-virus software, to not believe
everything they read online and to respect others. Check for adware or spyware often, use a firewall and teach them to come
to you if anything goes wrong online.
- Ask them to help keep their younger brothers and sisters safe
- Remind them that you’re still around if they need your help.