Chatting with kids about being online


This week, the Office of the Attorney General’s “Consumer Caution Corner” focuses on effective communication methods and safety measures parents can use to educate their children about their online safety.

Talking to tour kids
Technology is constantly evolving. So are the risks associated with it. You can reduce these risks by talking to your kids about how they communicate — online and off — and encouraging them to think critically and actin a way they can be proud of. While kids value the opinions of their peers, most tend to rely on their parents for help on the issues that matter most.
• Start early
• Initiate conversations
• Communicate your expectations
• Be patient and supportive

Communicating at Different Ages: Young Kids
• Supervision is important:
– When very young children start using mobile devices or a computer, they should be supervised closely by a parent or caregiver. If little kids are not supervised online, they may stumble onto content that could scare or confuse them.
– When you are comfortable that your young children are ready to explore on their own, it is still important to stay in close touch. You may want to restrict access to sites or apps that you have visited and know to be appropriate — at least in terms of their educational or entertainment value.
• Consider using various parental controls:
– Filtering and blocking
– Blocking outgoing content
– Limiting time
– Browsers for kids
– Kid-oriented search engines
– Monitoring tools

Communicating at different ages: Tweens
• Tweens need to feel “independent” but not alone as they start exploring on their own. Many 8- to 12-year-olds are adept at finding information online, but they still need guidance to help them understand which sources are trustworthy.
• Think about limits: Consider setting limits on how long and how often they can be online — whether on computers, phones, or other mobile devices. For younger tweens, parental controls can be effective. However, many middle school kids have the technical know-how to get around those controls.

Communicating at different ages: Teens
• Teens are forming their own values and beginning to take on the values of their peers. Many are eager to experience more independence from their parents. However, they need to learn how to exercise judgment about being safe online and act in accordance with their family’s ethics.
• Teens have more internet access through mobile devices — as well as more time to themselves — so it is not realistic for you to try to be in the same room when they are online. They need to know that you and other family members can ask them about what they are doing online.

What can you do?
• Talk about credibility:
– not everything they see on the internet is true
– people online may not be who they appear to be or say they are
– information or images they share can be seen far and wide
– once something is posted online, it is nearly impossible to “take it back”
• Talk about manners.
• Talk about expectations.
• Remind your kids that online actions have consequences.
• Tell kids to limit what they share.
• Limit access to your kids’ profiles.
• Help prevent cyberbullying.

For the complete “Net Cetera – Chatting with Kids About Being Online” Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) publication, please pick up a copy at the OAG (in Capitol Hill) or request one by email from Each week, the OAG’s Consumer Protection Education Program shares FTC publications that provide consumers and businesses with the “know-how” to identify and protect themselves from unfair trade practices and marketplace schemes. If you would like to file a consumer complaint, please pick up a form at the OAG (in Capitol Hill) or request one by email from After completing the consumer complaint, please submit it by email or in-person. We cannot act as your private attorney. If you need legal assistance, we will recommend that you contact a private attorney or legal aid organization. We cannot give legal advice or act as your private attorney. (Michael J. Cyganek)

Michael J. Cyganek is the consumer counsel for the Office of the Attorney General.

Contributing Author

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