KidsOnlineSafety--image of a preeschool boy on floor with a cell phone.

Kids’ Online Safety: My 3 top tips

Are the kids you love safe online?

When it comes to keeping children safe, lack of knowledge regarding kids’ online safety equals vulnerability, in my opinion.

In case you’re a little behind on this topic, I’m going to review my top three child safety tips when it comes to your kids’ online activity.

  • Stay informed
  • Consider delaying devices
  • Monitor your family’s digital devices

Ready to start? Let’s go!

Tip #1 Stay informed on the topic of kids’ online safety.

If knowledge is power, is lack of knowledge weakness?

I believe lack of knowledge does indeed equal vulnerability when it comes to your child’s safety, especially in the online space.

So often when I speak to people raising (or educating) kids, they have no idea what online kids’ safety issues are trending.

Topics like:

You can keep up-to-date on trending child safety concerns in as little as 10 minutes a week.

How? Do what I do. Select a few Instagram accounts to follow and check in with them once or twice a week. If Instagram isn’t your thing, I linked to websites down below.

There are a number of organizations, and even individuals, doing fantastic work in the kids’ online safety space. Here are a few of my favorites:

Each week, check in with three or more of these accounts to see what they’re saying. Sometimes we’re all talking about the same thing. When that happens, pay attention!

Tip #2 Delay devices.

I know this is a BIG ask. Of parents. And of kids. But hear me out. According to Clinical Psychologist and Neuroscientist, Divya Kakaiya, PhD (founder of San Diego’s Healthy Within Wellness Center), “From a neuroscience perspective, they (kids) beg for it (a smart phone) because it hits all those dopamine pathways the way cocaine or alcohol hit. It’s the biggest dopamine hit they will ever get in their life.”

I don’t know about you, but that scares me.

Now, add to that the problem of social media. These platforms are engineered to keep users on their screens: scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.

In addition to problematic screen times, what your child sees is a concern.

  • Impossible standards of beauty—This has seemingly led to an increase in plastic surgery in young people, including teens.
  • Sexually explicit material (aka SEM)
  • Violence (present on lots of gaming apps)
  • Radical and polarizing content

One “delay the smartphone” movement—Wait Until 8th—recommends not giving your child a smart phone until they’re in eighth grade.

In reality, even waiting until your child is eight years old would be an improvement over the status quo.

According to Common Sense Media, “Nearly half of all children 8 and under have their own tablet device and spend an average of about 2.25 hours a day on digital screens.” With that said, the waituntil8th.org website says 10 years old is the average age children get their first smartphone.

I get it! I was guilty. But with a different screen.

When our kids were young, I’d let them have two hours of television time a day, if they watched Disney, Nickelodeon, or public television. Because good golly, I needed a break every now and then!

But here’s why we need to find different ways to occupy our children. According to NYPHealthMatters, “A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics found that screen time may be associated with delayed development in young children.” The article went on to say there are now multiple “…studies showing a correlation between the amount of screen time among young children and the presence of developmental delays particularly in communication and problem-solving skills.”

One compromise is for parents to provide a basic phone.

A guest contributor, a mother of three, wrote the bonus content down below speaking to how her family handled this choice.

This article talks about a number of alternative communication device options.

Tip #3 Monitor all your family’s devices.

For the sake of your kids’ online safety, please consider monitoring all your family’s digital devices.

Here’s an article with directions for using parental controls on Iphones and Ipads.

Here’s an article for using parental controls on Android phones.

To figure out how to put parental controls on your home’s router, check out this blog post by Chris McKenna over at Protect Young Eyes.

If you can afford to consider a paid option, check out this article which ranks the best parental monitoring apps. If you know me, you know I’m a fan of Bark Technologies. I believe if you click here, you can try their services free for one month with my affiliate link. I love Bark because it screens devices for problematic language having to do with things like: cyberbullying, inappropriate content, suicidal ideation, drugs, etc.. If Bark spots warning signs, they send the parent an email so the parent can have a conversation with their child.

Click here to learn how to block your family’s devices from accessing PornHub and other porn sites.

Bonus Content: One mother’s perspective.

We gave our daughter a phone a few weeks before the start of her first year in middle school (6th grade in our state). She was 11. It included her own number to call and text, Spotify for music and a few games, no web browser or social media, and parent controls with Google’s Family Link.

We took her out to breakfast, went over a contract we wrote up, and talked it all over. I have this great photo of her rolling her eyes while signing the contract, smiling despite herself.

Part of me wishes we waited longer.

Her enthusiasm with the new device lasted about… 30 days? And then she was asking hard for SnapChat (“The volleyball team has a group snap and I’m the ONLY one not on it!”) and TikTok.
We thought about doing a smartwatch first, but she wasn’t into it, and I wasn’t into adding yet another device or having something she can’t easily set down.
And we talked about it a lot. Truthfully, that’s the only part that I feel really confident about. Talking. While her campaign for a phone was going strong, we talked and talked…. about privacy, and nudes, and taking drama home, and selfies, and scrolling. All of it. Our conversations now have shifted more towards the social realities of middle school: ie. feeling included, what’s a good friend, dating etc..
Our daughter is 13 now and her phone looks almost identical to when she first got it. She’s not happy about that and I get it. It’s awful feeling different and left out. Sometimes, the annoying campaigns for MORE are an opportunity for understanding my daughter’s world better: What’s hard right now, her longings and wants. I’m learning that her job is to push for what she wants and mine is to listen, help her talk it out, and hold that limit, for now, with sturdiness and empathy. It’s exhausting. 🙂
The current ask is for a tiktok account on MY phone. “See, a compromise!” She says.  Ha, we’ll see. We’re taking it slow and talking it through.
Note: This mom, my friend Jenna, is one of the most emotionally healthy people I know. I love the above description of her family’s process.

For 3 additional tips on kids’ online safety, click here

I hope this short list of online best practices will inspire you to take some actions towards keeping the kids you love a little safer online! Let me know if you’re already doing some or all of these. Or let me know which one you plan to tackle first!

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