4 Tools for Keeping Kids Safe Online

Photo (cc) by IntelFreePress

Everyone has heard the horror stories about children online: Teens who are cyberbullied so badly they become suicidal; others who don’t realize that the pictures they send out are broadcast to the entire world. But how can parents protect their children while still allowing them to explore the beneficial parts of the Internet?

For general health and brain development reasons, many experts call for limiting screen time, but even if you do, there are still a couple of hours of the day when your child will be plopped in front of a computer. Technically there’s a federal law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, designed to help keep kids safe. Enforcement of that law can be a bit tricky, however, particularly with sites not based in the United States.

The safest option, of course, would be to sit over your kids’ shoulder and watch everything they do. But that takes your time and doesn’t give the kids the freedom to explore on their own, learn and have some measure of privacy. Still, there are ways to watch what they are doing, or at least shield them from some of the darker corners of the Web.

1. Ground rules

Before they even see the keyboard, the most important step is to talk with your children about the Internet. You don’t want to scare them (or maybe you do), but it’s important to let them know the basics that adults know already (or should):

  • Never give out your full name or address
  • Never agree to meet in person someone you meet online, unless it is with your parents permission and supervised)
  • Understand that once you post something, it’s out of your control and it only takes a second for someone else to take a screenshot and pass it along.

Safekids.com offers detailed news and approaches to online safety for kids of various ages. It provides contracts for online safety — documents for parents and kids to sign that lay out agreed upon online conduct. The National Cyber Security Alliance is another good resource for safety tips for different age groups. Even the federal government has gotten in on the act, with recommendations for kids, parents and teachers.

Microsoft rolls safety and technology education into a great site called YouthSpark. It lays out advantages and potential problems of being online and on social media sites and offers some food for thought about how to avoid the pitfalls. It also provides instruction in coding and other technology skills.

2. Safe search

Google, Bing and pretty much all of the other search engines offer safe search features, which help filter search results. In some cases, the questionable material won’t show up, in others it will be pixelated, or block the searches.

Google has a site called Safe Search Kids, which has the filters on all the time. That site also has instructions about how to turn on the Google filters, because it won’t take kids long before they just go to the main page. Bing, under its settings page, also offers a similar option, just be sure your children have their own computer login, so you don’t filter your own results as well. Sometimes, these filters can be a bit overzealous in what they filter out, so be prepared for the kids to occasionally ask you to unblock it for a perfectly legitimate website.

3. Parental control software

Eventually, kids may stumble on things that put them at risk, or figure out the names of the websites and then circumvent the filters on the search engines. That’s where other monitoring programs can come in to block such things as pornography and gambling sites. Typically they can also be tailored by parents to better fit their child’s maturity level and their family’s values.

Net Nanny (about $30) is one of the better known options, but others such as AVG Family Safety (about $60) or McAfee Family Protection (about $50) are also well-respected, and new player Qustodio is billing itself as the “Internet’s best free parental control app.”

These programs are all evolving with the times. Many of them have ways to monitor your child’s social networking presence and will send you alerts – some will send you a text message – when they flag something your child posted or something they might see as inappropriate.

4. Kid-friendly sites

There’s a wealth of age-appropriate sites for kids out there, and as with seemingly everything in technology, new sites pop up every day and go away just as quickly. Kidzworld is a site entirely dedicated to children. It has news, information and a social networking component, all filtered and moderated. ClubPenguin is owned and operated by Disney, a brand name that probably tells you all you need to know. Common Sense Media makes a business of rating and reviewing web sites for kids, so you don’t have to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape on your own.

There’s no perfect way to ensure that kids who are online never see anything inappropriate. But by using a combination of vigilance, content blockers and interesting kids content, you can tip the balance in favor of a healthy and safe experience.

How do you ensure your kids are safe when using the Internet? Share in comments below or on our Facebook page. And be sure to share this article with your Facebook friends.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
7 Mistakes Guaranteed to Ruin Your Retirement
7 Mistakes Guaranteed to Ruin Your Retirement

Make even one of these money mistakes, and you’ll probably end up eating ramen noodles in your golden years.

Have You Heard of This Best Place to Retire in 2020?
Have You Heard of This Best Place to Retire in 2020?

The best place to retire in America is one you likely are not familiar with.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

Top 5 Activities That People Dream of Doing in Retirement
Top 5 Activities That People Dream of Doing in Retirement

No. 1 isn’t visiting grandkids, and No. 4 might surprise you.

Here’s the Average Retirement Age in Your State
Here’s the Average Retirement Age in Your State

Are you on track to retire at the same age as most residents of your state?

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco
9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco

Are you missing out on serious savings at your favorite warehouse club?

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.
This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50
7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50

As we age, our bodies wear down. Here is how to cut costs associated with some common ailments.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.