From the moment I first cradled each of my babies, I knew I would do anything to protect them. What I didn’t realize then was how much time I’d spend throughout the years trying to keep them safe – or that internet safety for kids would be so important.
In every stage, we’ve given them guidelines. When my kids started rolling and then crawling, we put covers on the outlets and baby gates on the stairs. When it was time to ride a bike, we bought helmets, installed training wheels for a season, and set limits on how far they could bike unsupervised.
Now, for two of my three kids, we’ve moved on to a new safety stage. We’re currently trying to navigate internet safety. It’s another stage with guidelines needed, but it doesn’t seem as easy as just buying a bike helmet. So how do I keep my kids safe online?
Why is internet safety important?
First, let’s look at why we need to protect our kids while they’re online. Here’s what studies are finding:
- Increased suicide risk for young teen girls after large amounts of time are spent on social media.
- Phone use and social media are being increasingly linked to depression, anxiety, and sleeplessness.
- Students are increasingly sending and receiving inappropriate images on their devices.
We also have to be careful and watch for scams, identity theft, and online predators.
Internet safety rules for the whole family
For everyone in our family, I want to look at how we can follow the advice in Proverbs 4|23:
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
I personally need screen time limits. I need accountability that I’m using my time online well, and boundaries about what I see to keep myself mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy.
Kids need to see their parents model that. They need to see that we can put our phones down and interact with them and others. They need to see us prioritizing healthy off-screen activities and conversations.
Next, kids need age-appropriate boundaries and guidelines.
8 Internet safety recommendations
Here are some recommendations based on the rules we’ve set in my house.
- Set screen-time limits. Alternate screen-time activities with activities that don’t require a screen.
- Wait as long as possible to get your child a cell phone. There are other options. My 6th grader has a watch from Gabb Wireless that allows him to make and receive calls and send messages to select people. He can easily call us from his watch if he needs to get picked up earlier or later from an after-school activity.
- Use a cell phone agreement. When it is time to get your child a cell phone, talk through expectations with a cell phone agreement. Here is a free one, developed by our 2|42 Community Church staff, that you can download.
- Use family apps. Apps like Google Family Link, Qustodio, or Bark help monitor your kids’ online activity and help keep content age-appropriate. In my house, my kids log in to devices with Google Family Link. I’m able to restrict what apps they can use, and I can view their activity and their time on the device.
- Keep your kids in sight. Have them use devices close by you to make it easier to provide help and monitor their activity. Have a central location where devices stay overnight instead of having kids keep their devices in their bedrooms. As 2|42 Teaching Pastor Grant Agler explains in his blog about parenting teens, this is our chance to provide coaching and set up our children for success later in life.
- Look at their devices, together. Set regular times to sit down with your child and talk about their online activity. Look at who they’re contacting, what sites they’re viewing, and how to watch out for inappropriate content. Explain why you’re having these conversations, and how everyone needs online accountability and boundaries.
- Ban devices in the car. I’ve found that my kids open up about their feelings and friendships during car rides. Don’t miss those opportunities for meaningful conversation by letting them play games on a device.
- Help your kids develop internal values. Our goal as parents is to help our kids learn how to be responsible adults. We want them to make good decisions because they want to, not just because we’re forcing them. This Parent Cue article has tips for having conversations with your child or teen about developing character.
And while we’re working to keep our kids safe in every area, don’t forget to have fun! In my house, it doesn’t matter if we’ve reached our max screen time limit for the day if we all decide we want to play Nintendo Sports on the Switch together. Or, we may take a walk and play Pokemon Go together. The time with our kids is short, let’s make the most of it!
Download this free resource
While these internet safety tips are beneficial for your kids, we can all be diligent about setting boundaries online. Check out this checklist developed by 2|42 Community Church for safe and healthy online habits. There are five areas in this checklist with tips and advice for you and your family members—both young and old.
Check out our website for more information. We always welcome new friends to worship with us. Find a location that’s close to you! You can learn more about our beliefs and visit our video library to explore more topics like this one. You can also check out our events page to find out what fun new things we’re doing this season.