How to Keep Your Child Safe on the Internet

The internet is always changing, and while the information above can keep your children safe, the most comprehensive method is to just stay involved.

While the internet is an essential part of everyday life, it also comes with many hidden dangers. These dangers range from older issues like malware, viruses, and phishing scams to newer problems with social media such as cyberbullying, cyber predators, and addiction.  

Even adults can fall prey to these dangers, which means that your children are especially vulnerable. The qualities that you probably love about your children—their innocence, openness, and curiosity—are exactly what makes them easier targets. 

Additionally, since COVID-19 forced many schools to close, kids have only increased their daily screen time resulting in a higher chance of unsafe behavior on the internet. So it is more important than ever to understand what your children are doing on the internet and how to keep them safe.

Children’s Internet Usage

The first concern worth noting is just how many hours per day kids are using the internet. In 2019, a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that on average kids between the ages of 8 and 12 spent 4.5 hours a day in front of a screen. And kids aged 13-18 were even higher at 6.5 hours per day. 

And a lot of that usage is not at home or under adult supervision: according to a Pew Research survey from 2018, 95% of teens say that they either own or have access to a smartphone. In the same survey teens reported that they use the internet “on a near-constant basis”.

While some of that usage is legitimate (such as online schooling), a lot of it is unnecessary and potentially dangerous. So being aware of (and potentially limiting) their screen time is a great first layer of security. It is a simple step that will decrease the chances of unsafe behavior.

Social Media And Social Networking Sites

Social media algorithms are specifically designed to increase people’s screen time—that is how they make money. They keep you scrolling and wanting more, making social media addiction a significant risk for children.

Addiction aside, many of the dangers from social media are hidden. These include depression, cyberbullying, and cyber predators. 


Sociologist Dr. Christine Carter warns that social media causes teenagers to become insecure by comparing themselves to others. During puberty, a teenager’s brain is constantly calculating social status. They are comparing themselves to others and wondering how other people view them. Dr. Carter also says that this constant comparison and insecurity is a “core cause of depression” for teens.

Cyberbullying and Cyber Predators

There are other dangers of social media usage, namely cyberbullying and cyber predators. These can happen on both social media and social networking sites more broadly. 

Cyber predators take advantage of the fact that the internet is anonymous, which means faking an identity is easy. Since kids are more trusting they are more easily tricked. The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recommends a few basic ways to be safer on social networking sites:

  • Limit or avoid posting personal information
  • Use privacy settings to keep your information restricted from the public
  • Stay skeptical of all information, especially from strangers
  • Use anti-virus software and keep it up to date

CISA also has an entire page on how to use chat rooms and instant messaging more safely.

Other Ways to Keep Your Children Safe

Since social media is the main culprit of children’s screen time, familiarizing yourself with the above content is a must. Even if social media makes your kids happy in the short term, the potential consequences might not be worth it. 

But more generally, there are some other practical and effective ways to keep your children safe on the internet:

  • Keep the family computer in an open space
  • Make separate user accounts for your children that have fewer privileges
  • Set screen time limits, especially for certain apps
  • Stay on top of your web browser’s security settings
  • Make computer time a shared activity

Final Thoughts

The internet is always changing, and while the information above can keep your children safe, the most comprehensive method is to just stay involved. You should set rules, know what they are up to, and maintain open and trusting communication with them.

If they feel safe talking to you, they will have a greater chance of staying safe on the internet.


When to Let Your Child Use the Internet Independently

Back to Analytics

Guide to UTM Analytics