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As a parent, how often do you speak with your child about online safety? What precautionary measures have you developed to help protect your child online? On average, children 18 and under spend 246 minutes on screens daily. That means about 1/5 of the average child’s day is spent watching videos, exploring the internet, playing games, or messaging with friends. 

Here are four ways to help keep your child safe while online:

1. Establish screen time and media limits

Setting technology access boundaries can be incredibly influential in keeping your child safe online. These boundaries could include screen time limits, media/online usage parameters, and when or where devices may be used.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following screen time limits: 

  • Less than 18 months – Very limited. 
  • 18 to 24 months – Only when a parent or guardian is present. 
  • 2 to 5 years – No more than one hour per day. 
  • 5 years and older – Parents or guardians decide while keeping in mind a healthy balance of other activities, family time, and exercise. 

For younger children and tweens, it’s suggested to keep computers, tablets, and phones in common areas of house, and regularly spend time with your child online to answer any questions and help teach safety tips along the way. Effectively establish these boundaries by creating a Family Media Plan.

2. Discuss potential online dangers

It may be uncomfortable to discuss potential online dangers with your child in a direct manner, but it’s important to be transparent and specific to ensure your child truly understands. The goal of this conversation should be to teach your child how to spot red flags and encourage them to communicate with you if something dangerous or uncomfortable occurs while online. 

Consider discussing cyberbullying, internet etiquette, and predators/enticement.

3. Set online safety boundaries

Even if you’ve discussed potential online dangers with your child, it is also important to set clear online usage boundaries. One of the best boundaries to emphasize is determining what personal information and photos your child is and is not allowed to share online. The National Cybersecurity Alliance suggests explaining to your child that “personal information is like money. Talk to your kids about the value of their information and how to be selective with the information they provide to apps and websites.” Any shared information can easily be reshared and is very hard to take back. As a parent, spend some time learning about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to understand protection against collection of your child’s personal information. 

A great way to ensure that your child understands the online safety boundaries you’ve established, create an Online Safety Contract together and sign it.

4. Utilize parental controls

Parental controls are also a great additional measure to help protect your child online. Parental controls can be established on smartphones, tablets, televisions, and computers. Different types of parental controls include location monitoring, filtering or blocking specific content, activity monitoring, and time limits. 

Search engines like Google provide quick access to infinite amounts of information. While this can be incredibly beneficial, it can also provide children with access to information, photos, and videos that might not be appropriate for their age. To help parents manage what type of information their child can access, Google automatically places children ages 14 to 17 into their SafeSearch category, restricting them from viewing explicit content. For children 13 or younger, parents have the option of utilizing Google’s Family Link to monitor screen time and establish content restriction settings.  

Easily setup Google parental controls by using this guide. 

How do I approach this topic with my child? 

If you’re unsure how to start this conversation with your child or how to begin putting safe online practices in place, use Safer Internet Day (SID) as your platform. SID is celebrated annually across the world on various days throughout February. The United States SID host, Connect Safely, says this day “aims to not only create a safer internet but also a better internet, where everyone is empowered to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively.” So, use this day to approach the topic of internet safety with your child by having an open conversation and establishing what boundaries to put in place. 

In the United States, Safer Internet Day is observed on the second Tuesday in February.  

Safer Internet Day 2023 takes place on Tuesday, February 7. #SID2023