Internet Safety Tips
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.
  • Avoid spreading rumors, assisting in cyberbullying or sharing private communications online.
  • 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 downloads).
  • Keep using the Yahooligans and Ask Jeeves for Kids search engines.
  • 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 screen names.
  • 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 offline.
  • 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 visit teenangels.org).
  • 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.

Ages 13-15

  • 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.)
Age 16 and over
  • 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 find.
  • 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 online.
  • Remind them that you’re still around if they need your help.