Protecting children from the vastness of the Internet can be difficult. Huffington Post reports that 91% of teens, with or without a smartphone, say they access the Internet from their phones, which makes it even harder to monitor what a child might be looking at.

While there are a lot of harmful sites on the Internet, there are also a lot of positive sites that can be beneficial and informative. The key is to teach children about how to search the Internet safely and set boundaries to ensure that they aren’t getting into things that will be harmful to them.

Here are some tips on how to teach your child about Internet safety.

Be clear about the dangers present on the Internet

The more a child understand the dangers and why they pose a threat, the more they can protect themselves from the danger. Explain to them the issues of pornography and why it is harmful. Explain why it’s bad to give out personal information and why watching pirated movies and shows is illegal. Of course, what you discuss with a child does depend on their age, but if a child has access to the Internet, they have probably already confronted some of these issues.

Educate them on sharing personal information on social media and other sites

Sharing personal information can be dangerous. Not just because of predators, scam artists and bullies, but because everything children post on the Internet is out there forever and that can be an extremely difficult concept to grasp. Remind them that future employers and colleges will be looking at social media sites, and if they find something they don’t like on an applicant’s page, they won’t consider that applicant

Teach children to be critical of online articles

The Internet does not require a writer to have a PhD in a certain topic in order to publish their writing. That means that an article you find one place can completely disagree with an article from another source. Teach children to be critical thinkers and look closely at everything they read. Do they cite sources? Does the site look professional? Are there loopholes in the author’s argument? These are skills they will need for the rest of their life, and they are extremely important to have in today’s media-saturated world.

Explain plagiarism and online cheating
This is especially applicable to teens who are writing essays for class. Tell them about how copying and pasting information on tests and essays is cheating. Be aware that there are sites that sell essays that may have never been used before. It is important to explain why doing your own work matters and that using someone else’s work is unfair to the child and the person’s work they are using.

This isn’t a complete guide by any means, but these are some places to start thinking about how to talk about the Internet with a child. And no matter what you do, remember to keep the door open to future discussions. The most important conversation to have with your Internet-smart kid is an ongoing one.

Elizabeth Slatsky


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