Internet Tips for Kids and Teens

It’s hard to imagine a world without the internet. The worldwide web offers all the information that you could ever hope to find out. In some respects, it’s like a completely different world altogether. There are games, stories, articles, and an endless list of ideas for new projects and new thoughts. However, much like the real world, it’s extremely important to stay safe while you’re online. It may not seem like there’s much danger when you’re sitting in your chair at home, but again, much like the real world, there are online thieves, stalkers, bullies, and other criminals, made even more dangerous by the fact that their faces can’t be seen. This isn’t to say that the internet should be avoided at all costs; on the contrary, the internet can be a wonderful resource. What is critical to understand and to practice are simple safety measures that, while they may seem silly or unnecessary, are common sense principles, and will keep you safe online.

Ten Basic “Do” Rules:

  1. Observe the rules of your household. Many parents and guardians will set time limits for internet usage, and may come up with other rules to be observed while on the internet. Regardless of whether or not they seem “fair”, it is important to follow these rules. Parents are there to look out for you and keep you safe, and they often know things about the world that you haven’t learned yet. Trust them, and be honest with them about where you go online and what you do.
  2. Bring a parent or guardian with you to meet anyone from the Internet. It’s easy to make friends on the internet, but meeting them “in real life”, or in person, can be dangerous. Make sure that if you ever do plan to meet someone in person, you have a parent or guardian go with you to help keep you safe, and meet in a public place where you know the area and feel comfortable. Never meet someone alone.
  3. Be honest with your parents and tell them if something makes you uncomfortable. If you accidentally come across something on the internet that makes you uncomfortable, or looks or sounds inappropriate, immediately tell your parents. They can help you avoid these things in the future, and can guide you to viewing websites that you want to see and that are appropriate for your age. Trust your instincts – if there’s a part of you that thinks you really shouldn’t be reading or seeing it, then you’re probably right, and you should go tell your parents about it.
  4. Be a good example. When younger siblings are online, use your experience as an older sibling to help guide them if they need it. Remember, everyone goes through the same process of learning to safely use the internet, and as an older sibling, this is your chance to set an example for and guide your younger siblings.
  5. Keep a “Secret Agent” identity. Use an anonymous name while visiting chat rooms, forums, or websites where you interact with other users. “Anonymous” means keeping your name and identity secret, and this is important because there are people out there who will target you as a victim because of your name, age, or gender. If you keep your identity secret, you will be hidden from these people, and you’ll be much safer for it.
  6. Immediately close your browser if inappropriate images or language appear in “pop-ups”. “Pop-ups” are like Trojan Horses for viruses and other things that can infect your computer. Computer viruses will mess with the hardware, and will make you lose things like games, documents, or pictures. No matter what you’re working on, if an inappropriate pop-up appears, close your browser and protect your computer – after all, if the computer dies, you won’t be able to go online anymore! If pop-ups keep appearing, ask your parents about setting a “pop-up blocker” in place, and that way, you won’t have to keep interrupting your internet time.
  7. Use the Internet for research and to access libraries. One of the most wonderful things about the Internet is the fact that it brings so much information to your fingertips in so short a time. Take advantage of the sources it has to offer! Websites that end in “.gov” or “.edu” are usually the best and the ones with the most trustworthy information.
  8. Remember the Real World! One of the dangers of the Internet is that it’s so easy to lose track of time. The Internet can be fun, but it can hurt your eyes and back if you use it for too long. Use the Internet to help get your homework done, and then reward yourself by going outside and enjoying the sunshine and the breeze, and remember, there’s no online substitute for the fun you can have playing with your friends!
  9. Follow the Golden Rule, even online. You’ve probably learned the rule that says, “Treat others the way you wish to be treated,” and it’s true! If you’re polite and courteous to other people online, most will be polite to you, and you’ll make everyone’s online experience more fun.
  10. Use virus-scanning software whenever you download a file. Like pop-up ads, online files can house nasty viruses. To keep your computer safe, make sure your parents have some kind of virus-scanning software installed on your computer – the software will make sure that the files are safe to download.

Ten Basic “Don’t” Rules:

  1. Don’t give out personal information – ever. Personal information is stuff like your name, your address, where you go to school, or who your friends are. It’s personal information because it belongs to you, not anyone else, and even if it seems safe to share, check with your parents or guardians before you do.
  2. Don’t send your photograph to anyone. Your parents likely already send your picture to family and friends with Christmas cards – no one online needs to see what you look like. If anyone online bugs you about sending your picture to them, immediately tell your parents.
  3. Never tell anyone online your username or password. Usernames and passwords are kind of like a lock and key; they let you into your stuff, and they keep other people out. Protect them, and never let anyone online trick you into telling them.
  4. If someone’s being mean, or you’re not getting along, leave them alone. Some people are mean by nature; if you get into an argument online, or if they’re being rude, don’t call them names or treat them badly in return. It’s up to you to be the better person – let the issue drop and either stop talking to them or leave the chat room or forum entirely.
  5. Don’t steal. This is different from stealing something at a store. On the Internet, images and articles are someone else’s “intellectual property”. This means that they came up with it, and they have the rights to it. If you post it without giving credit to them, then you are “stealing” their property. If you accidentally do it, then fix it by removing whatever it was that you posted that wasn’t your own – if you’re not sure whether you’re stealing or not, ask your parents or guardians to help you figure it out.
  6. Don’t answer email from someone you don’t know. If you get an email from a person or an email address that you don’t recognize, let your parents read it first. Some emails can have viruses, or may be specially designed to trick you into giving away information without you realizing it! Ask your parents to make sure it’s okay.
  7. If your friends are in trouble, don’t keep it a secret. It’s important to be trustworthy, but you need to know when to get help. If your friend is using the Internet inappropriately, or if they’re being bullied, stalked, or being approached by sexual predators, then you must tell your parents so that your friend can be helped.
  8. Do not post pictures or personal information on social networks like Facebook. There is no social network that is completely private. Even if you have privacy settings in place, there are people with special computer skills who can hack past those settings and see everything that you have on your page. Keep your personal information and your pictures a secret.
  9. Don’t remove files or emails from your computer. If you get an email or download a file that contains an inappropriate message from someone trying to meet you, don’t delete it, regardless of how embarrassing it may be. Sending these things is a crime, and the Police can use these files and emails to track down the person who sent it. Tell your parents if you receive anything scary or inappropriate.
  10. Don’t make friends with everyone. Just like in real life, be careful about who you decide to spend your time with. Your friends can influence your decisions, opinions, and judgment, and you don’t want to hang out with people who don’t have good morals. Be careful when picking your friends, and your time on the Internet will be all the more fun for it!

Resources for Parents

Resources for Kids and Teens

Resources for Teachers

Privacy and Safety

Social Media Safety Tips

Quality Websites for Kids and Teens