What Kids Should Understand Before Going Online

Savvy Kids and Parents Create Safer and Healthier Online Experiences

So you've decided that your kids are old enough to start exploring online. Or they've convinced you to let them play a multi-player game where they may end up in chats with strangers. Or maybe they've gotten their first phone and want to connect with friends. You need to make sure you're prepared to help them have a safe online experience, but it's going to have to be a team effort. Your kids need to know how to protect themselves, too. Here are ten things your kids should...MORE understand before they go online without an adult sitting right by their side.

  • 01 of 10

    A Description of the Internet

    Kid with social media icons
    Justin Lewis/Getty Images

    Let's not get crazy here. You don't need a degree to understand the basics of the Internet and to pass that along to your kids. It's simple. Just make sure that they understand that the Internet is a collection of computers that are all connected together. Some are located in homes around the world, while others are in businesses. This means that they can come into contact with all different ages, languages, and cultures. It also means that, just like in real life, not everyone will...MORE have their best interests at heart. 

  • 02 of 10

    Think Before You Click

    Talk about Internet hoaxes, scams, viruses, and other similar dangers. Kids are particularly susceptible to scams because they don't have the life experience to recognize false claims. They should never click on links that appear in pop-up boxes and ads and they should never download software without permission. 

  • 03 of 10

    What You Can and Can't Share

    The basic foundation of Internet safety is knowing what you should and shouldn't share with other people online. Kids should never share anything that can help someone else locate you, including your name, age, address/town,  phone number, school, clubs, local sports teams, etc. It also includes passwords, email addresses, birth date, and social security number. Have your kids choose a pseudonym or nickname that they can use as an identity and make sure they understand what types of...MORE information they should not share. This is a conversation that should continue to evolve as kids get older and start using social media. 

  • 04 of 10

    Who Is on the Other Side of the Screen?

    It seems simple enough to make a list of things kids shouldn't share or say or online. Unfortunately, kids (and adults) who are connecting with other people online will eventually start to trust some of those people. It's human nature. Help kids understand that the people on the other side of the conversation may or may not be who they say they are. They can provide false names and information. They can even send pictures that belong to someone else. Kids should continue to use their...MORE pseudonym and avoid sharing personal information with anyone, regardless of how long they have been chatting online. And anyone that isn't willing to meet a parent is not trustworthy. 

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  • 05 of 10

    Digital Footprints

    Even if you avoid sharing all of those personal things, anything you do post becomes part of your digital footprint. Talk with kids about always being thoughtful about what they share publicly because that information may never go away. If you have an argument with a friend and say something in anger, you can apologize later. If you post it online, it's very likely there for life. Mean, silly, or inappropriate things can reflect poorly on you when you apply to college, look for a job, or...MORE start dating. Younger kids who are online have been punished at school for things they've said online. Think before you post, Tweet, or share. 

  • 06 of 10

    The Law

    There are things you shouldn't post because they reflect badly on you, and there are things that can bring along much more serious legal troubles. Never post naked or revealing pictures of yourself or anyone else. Don't share them privately with friends, either. Don't threaten other people, spread lies, or encourage them to kill themselves. These may seem like silly pranks, but they aren't. You could ruin your own life in your attempt to get back at someone else. In addition,...MORE hacking into other sites where you are not supposed to be is likely to bring jail time, even if you think it's innocent., 

  • 07 of 10

    Copyright and Trademark

    Technically this falls under the law, but copyright and trademark deserve a note of their own. All kids should understand the concept of plagiarism. You can't turn in someone else's research and writing and claim it as your own for a school project. You always have to give credit. But when you're publishing things online, this is even stricter. Generally speaking, you cannot use other people's words and images without their permission. It doesn't matter if it shows up all...MORE over Google images and you provide a link back to their site. Always ask permission and respect it if the owner says no, or asks for compensation. You can open yourself up to a lawsuit or hefty fine by using content that is not your own. If you're hosting a blog or website of your own, you might have your account canceled for breaking the Terms of Use.

  • 08 of 10

    Your Expectations

    Each family has their own rules and expectations for their kids. This is likely to change as kids get older and as technology changes. Make sure you are very clear with your kids about what your expectations are and what the repercussions are if they fail to meet your expectations. It's also a good time to remind kids that trust is a major part of the equation, but also that the rules are in place for their safety. 

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Their Privacy

    Clearly lay out what kids can expect in terms of privacy. Will you require passwords for all of their accounts? Will you be spot-checking email and text logs? Being open about what they can expect helps build a common trust and opens the door for open communication between you. 

  • 10 of 10

    Reporting Other People

    Make sure your kids know how to report someone who is behaving in a way that is against the rules, inappropriate, or that makes them uncomfortable. They should be able to come to you for help, but most platforms give users the ability to report or block other users when necessary. They shouldn't use these options frivolously, but they should know they are available. 

It's a lot of information, which is why young kids aren't typically ready to be online without full parental supervision. And it's not going to protect your kids from some of the ugly things that are out there. Hopefully, though, by starting the conversation, you're opening the lines of communication, giving them the tools that thy need, and setting them on the path to safer online experiences.