Advice for safe internet use at different ages

Theresa Payton, National Cyber Security Expert, Mother, and Author, shares advice for parents on how they should monitor their child's safe internet use depending on their age
Kids Online Safety Advice | Safe Internet Use By Age Groups
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Advice for safe internet use at different ages

Let's start with the older kids. So let's start with sort of your 15 to 19. They're gonna be online with their friends, they're doing homework online, they're doing research online. And obviously, they've earned sort of a level of trust and social and emotional maturity with you where you're gonna know the right rules to set with them. Again, you need to talk with them about, "Look, you're getting ready to leave your childhood behind and become an adult. So all the things that you post online, whether it's saying, whether it's doing, whether it's pictures or videos, are all gonna be how people view you as you become a young adult. And so those are really important standards to measure yourself by with every action that you do online." Your middle schoolers, this is a really tough time. And so that thinking about what's appropriate for them, you definitely want some boundaries and limits. You don't want them hard-wired to the internet all day long. You want to make sure they're still developing those interpersonal, face-to-face social skills. I'm seeing where some middle schoolers are actually missing out on body language cues in an actual conversation because they're so focused on texting and instant messaging. They're losing some of the subtleties that come with a conversation. You also want to make sure that this is a time emotions run high, hormones run high, they're experimenting, they're doing silly things, they're sort of a child sort of growing into an adult. And so you want to make sure that the things that they're doing online, that you set the right ground rules, but they're going to need more boundaries. They're going to need time limits. I also say for this age group, a device has no place in their bedroom. The should not be taking the iPod Touch and the phone and the tablets into the bedroom with them. This is where kids case after case after case, if you look at internet crimes against children, if you look at the different cases of blackmail, the devices were in the bedroom and they were middle school kids. Then you get down to the younger set. You want to make sure you password protect all of the devices in the house so when the younger set picks up a device, they have to come to you and ask you first if they can use it. Then you can have a conversation about what they're going to do. You want to make sure you've actually picked out the age-appropriate apps for them, the browsers are set up with security and privacy settings for that age group, and you want to put some time limits and boundaries around them using those devices. 30 minutes, an hour tops with those devices for that smaller, younger age group. And by following these rules and, again, by sort of gauging your child's own emotional maturity, you're gonna have a happy, healthy kid who's having a great time on the internet but still being safe online.

Theresa Payton, National Cyber Security Expert, Mother, and Author, shares advice for parents on how they should monitor their child's safe internet use depending on their age


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Theresa M. Payton

National Cyber Security Expert

Theresa Payton is a well-known and highly respected national authority on cybersecurity, e-crime and fraud mitigation, and technology implementation. She has over twenty years of advanced business and security technology expertise and leadership at the highest levels of government and in the financial services industry, including being the first woman to serve as Chief Information Officer at the White House.  She is a wife and mother to three fabulous and fun kids.  She is also the co-author of the newly released book Protecting Your Internet Identity: Are You Naked Online? and the founder of the S.A.F.E. Kids initiative - a classroom-based, digital safety program.

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