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Staying Aware of What Your Child Is Doing Online

Overview

The internet can be a source of fun, learning, and friendship for children and teens. Many kids take classes or music lessons, play games, or connect with their friends online. But the digital world can also expose them to problems, such as cyberbullying and internet porn. It's important to know what your child is doing online. Here are some ideas for how to stay aware of your child's online activity.

  • Monitor your child's use of the internet.

    This may mean checking multiple devices, including their computer, tablet, phone, or smart TV—any device that has an internet connection.

    • Look at the history to see what sites they've visited, and check the games and apps they're using.
    • Watch for content that may be violent, sexual, or not age-appropriate for your child. Talk to your child if you find any disturbing content on their device.
    • Be sure you are notified about any in-app purchases your child makes. If your child has a phone, register it and other devices on your own plan so you can see their purchases.
  • Follow your child on social media.

    Some experts say that preteens should not be on social media. But for most teens, social media is how they interact with their friends. If your child is on social media:

    • Find out what sites your child uses, and "friend" or follow them. This helps you know what they're doing and seeing.
    • Check who else is following them. Explain to your child that you're not doing this to spy on them but to help them stay safe.
  • Be alert for sites and apps with direct messaging and video chat.

    This is often how adults who prey on children engage with them. Discuss this risk with your child. Help your child understand the difference between real-life friends and people they know only online. Talk to your child if you see they've been chatting with anyone they don't know in real life.

  • Don't simply rely on parental controls.

    Parental control apps can help you know what your child is doing on their devices. But kids can often figure out ways to get around these controls.

  • Get your child to agree to a plan for their media use.

    Include what kinds of sites and apps they can use and when they can be on them. Also decide what will happen if your child doesn't follow the rules. Review and update your plan as your child matures. Teens will want and expect more privacy.

  • Watch for signs of problems.

    Talk to your child if you notice changes in behavior, such as being more secretive, withdrawn, angry, or anxious. These could be signs of online bullying or other problems your child needs help with. If you have concerns, talk to your child's doctor.

Credits

Current as of: September 20, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Andrew Littlefield PhD - Psychology, Behavioral Health