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Let’s talk about it: How to have open dialogue about internet safety with your kids

Kansas City, Missouri – (February 22, 2023) - There is no question that our world is becoming increasingly digital. It is also true that when more people are connected, their lives can improve. However, children can often become victims of online dangers if their screen time is not properly supervised or guided.

It isn’t possible to protect our children from every threat, but we can encourage open dialogue and honest conversation about what they may run into in our digitized world.

We have compiled some pointers and conversation starters to help you ensure your children understand online boundaries, while still allowing them to explore the good things that the internet can offer.

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Two children are playing games on mobile phones while hiding under a blanket. One has shoulder length hair and is wearing a blue, red, and white striped tee shirt. The other has her hair in a ponytail and is wearing a green tee shirt.

Set the example

“Do as I say, not as I do” is not usually an effective strategy when it comes to teaching good habits. If your children are expected to be off their screens during dinner, you should do the same.

Initiate meaningful conversation — not about a video you saw online, but about something positive that happened in your day. Show your family that time spent offline is valuable and enjoyable. If you are constantly scolding your kids for having their face in their phone or tablet, be mindful about your screen time as well, especially when they are watching.

Lead with understanding

The internet can be a confusing place, even for seasoned users. It can be hard to discern fact from fiction, safe sites from phishing scams, or fun viral video from something more sinister. Let your kids know that it’s OK to ask questions and that you want them to be safe.

Kids may feel scared to tell their parents that they clicked on an unsafe link or shared something they shouldn’t have. Instead of scolding or punishing them, help them fix their mistakes and learn from it. We are all learning, and we all need help sometimes.

Proceed with caution

It’s OK to be the “mean” parent sometimes. It’s OK to tell your kids “no.” If an app, game, or site goes against your family’s comfort level or internet rules, restrict your children’s access to it.

Remember that nobody will protect your kids like you can. Only you can guide them to make the right decisions. If you notice unapproved or concerning activity on family devices, ask them about it. We all deserve a degree of privacy, but when it comes to your child’s well-being, parents know best.

Keep the lines open

Make sure your children know they can always talk to you. Encourage them to show you what they like to do on their devices, who they’re talking to, and what they’re looking at. Come from a place of curiosity and genuine interest. This can help ensure your child knows you trust them and just want what’s best for them. You are their safe place.

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A man in a yellow polo with glasses and a grey mustache has his arm around his teenage son. The teenager has dark hair and facial hair. He is wearing a blue tee shirt with white designs. They are smiling while looking at the teenagers' mobile phone together.

In Conclusion...

The internet is an unavoidable part of living in the 2020’s. Equipping your kids with the knowledge and skills to be responsible users of internet is crucial to ensuring their safety in the digital age. Remember that fostering open dialogue is key to helping your kids feel safe asking questions. You are your child’s best teacher.