Teaching Elementary-Aged Children About Safe Internet Use

According to a study published in the Preventive Medicine Reports journal, young people who spend seven or more hours a day on screens are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression and anxiety as opposed to those who only have an hour of screen time daily. With the popularity (and necessity) for mobile devices and Internet access almost everywhere, cybersecurity is a topic we should be talking more about. June is Internet Safety Month, so let’s take the time to discuss Internet safety when it comes to children.

Limit screen time:

It’s important for parents to establish boundaries with their children when it comes to being on the Internet and using various devices. In a recent study done by the National Institute of Health, studies showed that children who reported more than two hours a day of screen time scored lower on thinking and language tests. These results would likely differ if parents lowered the amount of daily screen time to only 30 minutes a day or less.

Keeping devices in a hidden location will make it easier to limit screen time, as children won’t be able to look at them in plain sight and feel tempted to use them. Try using screen time as a supplement for something else, not a reward. Using these devices as a reward might instill a need for screen time in your children, which is unhealthy and can promote bad habits.

youth on internet

Discuss what’s “off limits”:

Once your children are old enough to use the Internet, it’s crucial to sit down with them and have a conversation about what is appropriate to use the Internet for and why. This discussion should be simple and clear cut so your child understands their limits. For example, sharing personal information online could be very dangerous, especially for children who don’t have the knowledge to fully understand online scams and other viruses that can affect their device.

Internet security is an important part of this discussion to have with your child. Explain why personal information is personal and should only be kept to yourself and not the rest of the Internet. There are several ways to restrict your kids from accessing the Internet so they can only play games or watch specific programs. Establish parental controls to figure out what you’d like to restrict and set that up before your child even touches the device. Be sure to repeat this process on all Internet-enabled devices. Do your research to find games or other forms of content that are educational for your kids, instead of harmful.

Teach open communication:

The most important part of Internet safety is learning to have an open line of communication with your child. If they encounter any issues or problems while using the Internet, they should come to you first for guidance and advice. Every time your child uses a device, remind them that if they have any issues or questions to come to you first. Make sure they feel comfortable coming to you if they are confused about anything they see or stumble across by accident or intentionally. This is relevant for pop-up ads, phishing emails, spammy games, etc.

Sitting down with your child and playing some games together is another positive way to use the Internet but also continue to have open communication. Games like KidsCast, Word Beach, and PBS KIDS games all have appropriate content suitable to assist in teaching kids rather than just entertaining them. The Internet can be such a fun tool as long as you still put in the effort to converse with your child and find ways to keep them stimulated and constantly learning.

As kids get older, the time spent online will naturally increase, but screen time should still be limited as research shows too much of it impacts mental and physical health. Screen time also takes valuable time away from daily outdoor activities, communication development, and several other growing experiences.

 Browse our age-based guidelines to help you start your mission to safe Internet use!

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