How to Keep Kids Safe Online

As our world becomes all the more digital, parents wonder how to keep kids safe online. These guidelines that we use in our home can hopefully benefit your home too. 

With our world becoming more and more digital with each passing day, I often wonder if I'm doing enough to keep my kids safe online. Their safety and wellbeing is always my number one priority and I hope I can develop a good balance in our home with giving my kids the tools they need to be successful on devices, while also keeping them safe from the dark side of the internet, and also making sure screens don't become a crutch for them. These are some things we do in our home to keep our kids safe online.

Limit Screen Time:

I get that this is easier said than done, but it's true that it's easier to keep your kids safe online when they don't have unlimited access to screens. We've been on both sides of the coin on this with way too much screen time, and doing a screen time fast during the summer, and everywhere in between. I stick to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation for no more than two hours per day. Typically our kids have no screens before school, then they go to school, and when they come home I typically let them watch a show or play on the iPad before dinner, and then screens are done from dinnertime until bedtime.

Set Filters and Boundaries on Devices for Kids:

Our kids don't use computers or laptops regularly which makes this a lot easier to manage. Our iPad is strictly a kids device and there are no apps on there that we wouldn't want our kids to use. We use Youtube Kids instead of the regular Youtube app, and have it filter the content for our kids to be appropriate for their age range. I've been really happy with it, and feel it does a really good job at keeping my kids safe from seeing things I don't want them seeing. 

We also have kid accounts setup on Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc... and the kids know that they only go on the kids specified account. We've never had an issue with that and again, it's worked great.

Talk to Your Kids About the Dangers of Being Online:

A few weeks ago Kyle wanted to start playing Minecraft. After discussing at length with other parents, family members who have used it, and some online research we decided to let him purchase the game with his birthday money with strict rules. We discussed how there are bad people out there who pretend to be a kid, just to talk to other kids. We talked about how we never talk to ANYONE online, and that we NEVER send a picture of ourselves to someone even if they ask. We talked about how people can threaten to hurt you or do mean things if you don't send pictures, and how those are lies to trick you into complying. We explained that if people try to talk to you online to come and get mom and dad right away so we can fix it. 

We also explained to Kyle that playing Minecraft was a privilege, and that if we felt it needed to be taken away, we would take it away and delete the app, and give Kyle his money back since he was the one who originally purchased the game. 

I think kids are old enough to be told these harsh realities of being online and we have give small amounts of trust to let them build up to more future privileges of being online as they show responsibility and maturity to do so.

No Screens Behind Closed Doors:

We have a strict no screens behind closed doors policy. The kids are allowed to play with screens anywhere upstairs (my bedroom, Kinsley's bedroom, living room, playroom, etc...), but the doors have to be open so we can hear and have eyes on what is going on. Screens are never allowed down in the basement, unless with a parent, and screens are never allowed in rooms after bedtime. 

The only exception to this is that we do let Kyle listen to audiobooks in his bedroom at bedtime, but he knows to strictly stay on the app for the books, and if he wanders off the app he will lose that privilege. We have him set a 30 minute timer, and when the timer goes off he has to bring the iPad up to my room where I can see that he stayed on the app and that he didn't go into other apps. 

My kids don't currently know how to close out the apps running in the background, so I can easily double click the home button and see what is running in the background and what they've been doing.

Check Their Browsing History:

I know a lot of parents don't believe in "spying" on their kids, however, I'm not one of those moms. I believe in spying, and spying regularly. Youtube Kids allows you to view the browsing history of what your kids are watching. About once a month I'll login just to make sure there isn't anything new my kids are watching that I don't know about. Because it's Youtube Kids I've never had any concerns or issues, and there filters really are pretty good, but we use Youtube Kids because we have had issues with our kids on regular Youtube. Being aware of the content your kids are consuming is the best way to keep kids safe online, and how you can best help them navigate this digital world.

What are some things you do to keep your kids safe online? I'd love to hear in the comments below!

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