How to Keep Your Child Tech Safe

Children are more likely to master everything they see, or get interested in, at a very young age. It’s best encourage children in the process of learning, but with some precautions. Using technology has become a necessity in our modern age. Many find it a need to teach children internet etiquette and manners and guide them, so that they respect their own privacy, and that of others, too.


EditBefore Setting Rules on Tech Access

  1. Consider the age of your child. Allowing your child to use technology and the internet unsupervised is a huge step up in independence for them, so it’s important to consider your child’s age, and therefore, how much independence they get. Consider your child’s age and maturity to determine how safe they’d be online. A child that’s overly trusting may need some restrictions on what they do online, and be limited to using non-online apps.
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    • If your child is age five, for example, it would be better to block all non-game or non-learning sites and restrict device time to one hour per day. When your child is sixteen, however, this is often seen as far too restrictive, especially seeing as the interests of a sixteen-year-old are very different from the interests of a five-year-old, and teenagers often need to go online for homework.
    • Just because your child is very young doesn’t mean that they are immature, and vice versa. Tailor your rules on technology based on the level of responsibility your child has shown in the past.
  2. Consider how trustworthy your child is. How much you can trust your child is a big influence on the device and internet access they should be allowed. Can you trust your child to listen to you if you say, “Don’t go on this website”, or do you think your child would access it anyway? If they’re in the latter group, you may want to see if you can block certain websites to prevent the child from accessing them.
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    • Never base the trustworthiness of your child off of anything other than evidence. If you’re just suspicious of your child using the internet for “bad things” when they’ve never given you any signs that they’re badly behaved, whether online or in real life, being overly suspicious and putting too many restrictions on your child can severely strain the relationship between you and your child.
  3. Make a list of things your child should not be allowed to do. Technology should not be a giant list of “don’t”‘s, but you’ll want to set some ground rules for your child so that they get a basic idea of what they should and shouldn’t do online. Make sure the list of rules is age-appropriate (“no accessing websites without checking with a parent” may be good for a child in early elementary school, but sounds ridiculous in high school) and there are consequences for violating these rules.
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    • A sample list for a preteen may look something like:
      • No downloading software or apps or buying in-app purchases without permission
      • No installing programs on the computer without a parent’s knowledge
      • No tampering with programs installed by a parent (e.g. antivirus software, parental controls)
      • No accessing sites that are not known and trusted
      • No texting or IM’ing people you’ve only just met online
      • No use of the internet to bully or harass others, whether they’re known in person or not
    • Try to base these rules on past behavior, as stated above.
  4. Decide about your child’s social media usage. Some parents allow their children to sign up for social media sites when they’re under the age of 13 (which is the age restriction for most social media sites, due to child privacy laws), while others forbid their child from using social media until a certain age, if at all. This choice is completely up to you, but it should be made responsibly. Additionally, anyone-whether over 13 or under-should never use social media in a way that endangers them or others, or bullies people; make a rule with your child or teen that if they are found behaving this way, their social media privilege will be revoked.
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    • As a general rule, a child under the age of 10 probably should not be on social media sites such as Facebook. Because your child is still fairly young, they may not properly understand that what you put on social media is out there forever, and they may make some bad choices.
    • Those under 13 that are allowed on social media should have their accounts supervised to make sure that they’re not abusing the accounts.
      • Only check your child’s social media account once in a while or if you have a good reason to suspect your child is abusing their social media privileges. If you do this too often, your child may feel that their privacy is being violated, leading to a loss of trust and a bad parent-child relationship.
    • Teens 13 and over should not be completely unsupervised, but don’t watch their social media accounts unless you have a good reason to (e.g. there have been complaints from parents that your child is harassing other children). You may also want to set special rules on some social media sites; certain websites are known for having many, many bullies.
  5. Sit down and talk with your child. Before putting these rules in place and starting to enforce them, bring your child into the decision. Lay out the ground rules, and ask what your child thinks about it. Explain which rules are non-negotiable (for example, no tampering with parental controls or using social media for engaging in bad behavior), and which rules you’d be willing to compromise on, and let your child give their input. Be willing to listen and compromise, but also be sure to not let your child run the show. You are a parent, not someone who comes up with ideas that your child scraps.
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    • Be careful to make sure that you don’t jump to change the rules; this can imply to your child that you are a pushover. However, some changes may be necessary; if your child is fourteen, for example, and you have a one-hour limit on computer time, your child may not finish their online homework with that little time.
    • Always explain the reason behind each of your rules, including natural consequences that may follow infractions. This will help make things more clear for your child.

EditWhen Your Child Has Access

  1. Create an administrator account, and keep the password secret. Administrator accounts on any device – computer, tablet, phone, or so forth – prevent your child from installing or uninstalling software on the device without your knowledge. It also prevents them from changing settings on the parental controls if parental controls have been installed. Make sure the password is something hard to guess (so don’t use a pet’s name, a birthday, or anything else that your child could easily figure out), and don’t let your child know what it is.
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    • As with all passwords, don’t write the password anywhere in the computer, even if it’s in the administrator account. A child with good enough computer skills would know how to find this without signing in to the administrator account.
  2. Limit screen time. Spending too much time in front of screen is not good for a child’s brain and eyes. For young children, one or two hours of screen time per day should be enough. Set a limit on how much time your child can spend on the computer, and enforce it.
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    • The only exception to your child’s time limit should be if they’re trying to do their homework and have run out of time. However, you may want to do this sparingly, as many children and teens put off their homework and then rush to get it done at the last minute. Consider limiting this to when they have a big assignment only.
      • You can also stop homework from counting towards screen time. Make sure your child is on task when working on homework online.
    • Use of multiple devices at the same time should be avoided.
    • You may want to set parental controls on the child’s accounts that prevents them from logging on at nighttime hours, and perhaps limits their time on the devices in general. However, be careful about this – some parental control programs have been known to be faulty, even ones that come installed with the computer’s operating system!
  3. Secure the internet. Many children stumble across things on the internet that they don’t mean to; often, the best way to prevent this is to prevent those “things” from being accessed. Create a balance between safety and freedom. You should strive for an environment where your child is safe, productive, and fun.
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    • If your child repeatedly breaks rules regarding internet usage, try setting a password to prevent him or her from accessing the Internet on their own.
    • For younger children, using “safe search” can also be useful. Be warned that safe search often blocks false positives, i.e. websites that don’t actually contain inappropriate content.
    • Depending on your child’s behavior, you may want to use a program that requires sites to be whitelisted before they can be accessed. However, a few programs go over-the-top and block sites such as Google, so be careful as to what you install. In many cases, it may be better to use a program that allows you to blacklist sites, rather than whitelist them.
  4. Respond accordingly to abuse of internet privileges. Unfortunately, most children and teens end up misusing the internet at some point; if and when this happens with your child, you’ll need to respond accordingly to prevent it from happening again. Depending on how serious the offense was, it may work to simply take down the offending content, or you may have to impose a temporary ban on a certain technology.
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    • Do not ever yell or curse at your child during this process. For example, rather than shouting, “Why on earth would you do that?! That’s such a stupid thing to do!”, say calmly, “I understand that you showing our address in that video online was an accident, but it’s still against our rules of the internet,” or, “Your behavior towards your classmates online is unacceptable, and we agreed that you would not use the internet to behave in this way”.
    • Everyone makes mistakes once in a while. If it’s the first time a minor rule was broken or your child simply forgot about a minor rule, be willing to forgive your child for what they have done.
  5. Provide positive guidance to your child. A parent should be a good mentor so that a child will come to you if anything happens. By setting a good example and responding appropriately to both positive and negative behavior, your child will have a fun and safe experience using technology.
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  • Create a common mail ID for game logins and other purposes, so that you can track the content being downloaded.
  • If you have to take away your child’s computer or tablet for inappropriate use of the internet, confiscate any devices they have that can connect to the internet as well (e.g. cell phone, iPod touch, gaming consoles). This way, they can’t use another device to connect to the internet and do the exact same thing.


  • Never be too heavy-handed on restrictions. This can make your child angry with you, and strain your relationship.

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