How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online

I often joke about how I wish I could wrap up my kids in cotton wool to protect them from all the challenges of the real world. When they were little, I would have loved to protect them from some of the trickier kids in the playground. But as they got older, it was all about the internet and of course, alcohol, drugs and fast cars!

Unfortunately, I don’t have solutions for all of the above parenting challenges but with over 12 years of experience as Cybermum, I know a thing or two about keeping kids safe online.

Online Safety – Whose Responsibility Is It?

The CEOs of the world’s largest social media platforms were recently summoned to a Senate Judicial Committee hearing in Washington. The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) is still being heavily debated and representatives from Meta, Discord, TikTok, Snap and X, the company formerly known as Twitter, were invited to participate in the hearing. Designed to regulate social media and better protect children, the proposed bill has a lot of support but there is still a way to go before it takes its final shape and potentially becomes law.

In my opinion, there’s no question that governments worldwide need to play a bigger, more vocal role in this arena and insist on better protections for all social media users, particularly our kids. In 2019, Australia passed its own Online Safety Act and the UK did the same in 2023 with its Online Safety Law. And while these are all very important steps forward, I honestly believe that the role families play in teaching their kids about online safety is even more important.

Digital Parenting Can Be Overwhelming

I totally understand that teaching kids about online safety can just feel like another task on a never-ending to-do list. I’ve been there! But think of it like this. Haven’t you been talking to your kids about sun safety and road safety along the way? You know, dropping in little reminders and tips as you drop them at school or pick them up from a play date? Well, this is how you need to think about online safety. Focus on breaking it down into little chunks so it doesn’t feel hard.

Now that we have our mindset sorted, let me share my top tips for helping your kids stay safe while they are online.

  1. Start Early and Talk Often

As soon as your kids can pick up a device, your conversations about online safety need to start. Yes, I know it might seem ridiculous, but it is THE best way to help ‘mould and shape’ your offspring’s mind in a cyber-safe way. If your 2-year-old likes to play games on your iPad, it could be as simple as:

  • ‘remember mummy or daddy choose the game’
  • ‘mummy/daddy enters the passcode’
  • ‘let’s keep your name private online.’ To help with this, why not create an online nickname for them?

And when your kids get older, weave in more age-appropriate messages, such as:

  • ‘Online friends aren’t real friends’
  • ‘If you wouldn’t do it in person then don’t do it online’
  • ‘Think before you post’

Spending time online with your child from an early age is another great way of helping them understand the difference between good and bad content. And modelling good digital citizenship while you are online with your kids will help ‘mould and shape’ their understanding of how to interact safely and positively.

  1. Set Clear Rules and Expectations

I’m a big fan of ensuring kids have clarity on boundaries and expectations, particularly when it comes to all things online. Your easiest fix here? A family technology agreement. I love a family technology agreement because it can be tailored to your kids, their ages and maturity levels. Check out my previous blog post on how to develop one for your family here. One final piece of advice here – don’t start introducing tech contracts during a family blow up. Please wait till everyone is calm otherwise I can assure you, you’ll encounter resistance from some family members!

  1. Ensure Your Kids Have The Basics Covered

There are a few key fundamental basics that I think every child needs to know to keep themselves safe online. Here are my top 5:

  • Never share passwords – no exceptions
  • One password for every online account
  • Privacy settings are always to be set to the highest level on all social media platforms
  • Use Wi-Fi carefully – never share sensitive information or undertake banking
  • Turn on 2-factor authentication wherever possible (or multi-factor authentication)

I would also include these basics in your family technology contract.

  1. Develop Critical Thinkers

As your kids get older, it becomes harder to monitor their every move online. Yes, you can create bookmarks with ‘approved’ sites and install parental controls however it is inevitable that there will be an opportunity for unsupervised internet usage. But if you have helped your kids develop critical thinking skills then it is far more likely that they will be able to navigate the internet is a safe and responsible way.

Where to start? Always encourage a healthy scepticism and encourage them to not accept that everything they read online is true. When it is age-appropriate, help them to identify reliable sources, spot less reliable websites, and question the underlying purpose of the information that has been shared.

  1. Understand Your Child’s Online World

Taking some time to understand how your child spends their time online is the best way of truly understanding the risks and challenges they face. And when you understand the risks they face, you can help them prepare for them. So, join ALL the social media platforms your kids are on, play their games and download their messaging apps. Not only will you develop a better understanding of how to manage the privacy settings on each of the platforms, but the often very specific language used and the online culture can often form a big part of your child’s life. And the best part – if they know you understand their world, you will develop a little ‘tech cred’ which means that they will be more likely to come to you with any issues or problems that may face online. Awesome!

  1. Invest in Parental Controls

A set of good-quality parental controls can be a wonderful addition to any digital parenting toolkit. Many will allow you to filter the content your child sees, block certain websites, and even track your child’s browsing history and location. But please remember, no parental controls will ever replace an invested parent! Check out McAfee’s website for more information.

Now, I know that might feel like a lot but please don’t stress. Simply chunk it down and give yourself a new task every week such as joining a new social media platform or playing your child’s favourite online game. The most important thing to remember is to keep talking to your kids. Why not start the conversation by asking them for advice or, sharing something you saw online? Remember, your goal here is to get yourself some tech cred! Good luck!!

Alex xx

Introducing McAfee+
FacebookLinkedInTwitterEmailCopy Link

Stay Updated

Follow us to stay updated on all things McAfee and on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats.


More from Family Safety

Back to top