Internet Safety Tips for Kids and Parents

The best way to keep your child out of trouble online is to help them set up their accounts and teach them what’s okay and what’s not.

Photo by Adam Howling

A version of this article originally appeared on

No matter how old your kid is, you’ve likely confronted questions surrounding his social media usage. You may have posted pictures of your baby on Facebook, received a notification that your toddler was tagged in a photo by a well-meaning friend, or had your kid beg you for his own Club Penguin, Twitter, or Facebook account. In fact, by 2010, 92% of toddlers had an online presence, which included photos on Facebook and social media profiles.

How you handle your child’s web presence has serious implications for both you and your kid’s finances, not to mention his safety. According to Norton’s 2010 Online Family Report, 62% of kids have had a negative experience online, and 33% of kids have downloaded a virus. Two in five children have had an anonymous person try to add them as a friend on a social site. Besides common safety concerns, you’ll also want to make sure your child doesn’t do something to compromise his reputation as he gets older, applies for scholarships and searches for first jobs and internships. Here’s how to create a safe and appropriate social media environment for your child with advice from Caroline Knorr, parenting editor at Common Sense Media.

1. Google His Name

Best time to do this: As soon as you’ve chosen the name for your baby.

Why: It’s good practice to Google your kid’s potential name before you name him, just to make sure you aren’t accidentally naming him after a convict, or some disgraced CEO. It’s up to you how seriously you want to take what you find. Famous porn star? Might want to choose another name. Punk rocker from Utah? Meh, it’s up to you.

How to do it: Try all combinations of first, middle, and last names, plus middle initials.


2. Set Up a Gmail Account

Best time to do this: Now, if your child doesn’t already have one.

Why: Maybe Gmail won’t be the dominant email five years from now. But in case it’s still popular, you might as well reserve your child’s name, even if she’s young. It will be easier to get now, so she won’t have to resort to 10 years from now.

How to do it: If your child is too young for email, set the account up yourself and use it to stay organized. E-mail pictures to your family and receive coupons from Toys “R” Us. When she is old enough to be able to use it for communicating with friends and family, hand it over, but retain the right to log in and monitor her activity until you’re comfortable with her taking it private, perhaps in her teens.