“How do I keep my child safe on the internet?” This question is hard to answer in a few minutes because it is one that is so complex. And since this topic is so vast, let’s focus on one sector, Social Media.

Did you know that 95% of youth today report using social media? “Youth” is somewhat vague, so let’s narrow that down. Forty percent of 8 to 12-year-olds use social media, reports the 2023 Social Media and Youth Mental Health – The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory. Keep in mind that social media is not inherently good or bad. However, there are some things we should remember if our child or teen is active on social media today. This article will address some areas of concern, as well as dive into steps we can take to keep our kids safe on the internet.

Child Safety on the Internet

Benefits and Dangers

A quote from the previously mentioned report reads “There is broad agreement among the scientific community that social media has the potential to both benefit and harm children and adolescents.” What are some of these potential benefits and dangers? Let’s start with the obvious. Social media provides a sense of connection and community. It also gives us access to information. Additionally, it enables us to form and maintain friendships.

Although there are some positives, we also need to take a look at the negatives. According to the report, spending more than three hours a day doubles the risk of poor mental health (including anxiety and depression). In 2021, eighth and tenth grade students spent an average of 3.5 hours a day on social media. While social media does give us access to information, it can be hard to determine what is real and what is misinformation. Also, we don’t always know if the friends we or our kids meet on social media are really who they say they are. Additionally, malicious users of the internet can use social engineering techniques against our children. Clearly, we need to take action to keep our children safe on the internet. How?

TRIGGER WARNING: The following paragraphs address a topic that may be triggering for some.


Before we get into the “how,” we need to understand the “who” and “what.” “Who” are we protecting our children from? Namely, predators. And “what” are we protecting them from? Grooming. What IS grooming? The dictionary defines grooming as “the practice of preparing or training someone for a particular purpose or activity.” Predators will use the grooming method to target and exploit their victims, and unfortunately, many of these victims are children.

To be able to combat grooming, we need to understand it. Let’s take a brief view at how it starts and ends. It starts with a predator targeting a victim. Then they will gain the trust of and information on that victim. This could be obtained by using various social engineering tactics, such as liking, mutual self-disclosure (where the information they provide is false), and sympathy or assistance themes. (To learn more about these techniques, please view the following information: Instant Rapport.) Next, the predator fills a need in the victim’s life, making themselves significant to the victim in some way. Then, they begin to isolate the victim, after which the abuse begins. They will then do everything in their power to maintain control.

By understanding the steps a predator takes to groom their victims, we are more likely to see the signs and jump in where needed. By understanding the social engineering and influence techniques that these predators use, we will be able to spot the dangerous language and actions of said predators. However, one thing is needed if we are to do this, open communication with our children.

Open Communication

Open communication has saved child after child from dangerous situations on the internet. If your child or teen feels uncomfortable with a friendship, their coming to you about it could be what protects them. Because of this, we always encourage open communication and age-appropriate discussions about the dangers of the internet and social media. This is a continuous process as your child grows up, not just one conversation. These conversations can seem daunting if you’re not sure where to start. The Innocent Lives Foundation (ILF) and The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) both provide guides and free resources for parents looking to have these conversations.

The ILF recommends establishing internet use guidelines with your children. They suggest the following as a starting point:

  • A list of approved apps/websites.
  • Their device privileges are dependent upon your right to view anything on the device at anytime.
  • A list of acceptable content (What types of photos are allowed, no posting hurtful or explicit comments, appropriate types of videos or music) to post or exchange.
  • Guidelines of who they can interact with online.
  • Never share personal details such as school, phone numbers, real names or addresses with anyone online. If they know you personally, they will be able to get a hold of a verified guardian for those details.

Monitoring Your Child’s Devices

Many ask, SHOULD I monitor my child’s devices? Experts recommend yes, with some caveats. Think back to our first point, open communication. This goes two ways, from child to parent AND from parent to child. We feel that discussing AGE APPROPIATE monitoring options with your child can build trust, while monitoring in secret can do much the opposite. After that step is taken, there are some tools that you may find useful.

iKeyMonitor is one such tool that some have found success with. It allows you to monitor text messages, record phone calls, check websites visited, and track current GPS location.

Kidslox is another such app that many have found useful. This app allows you to set daily time limits and lock specific apps.

For a more in-depth look at monitoring, please read the following guide: Guide to Monitoring .

Help Young Ones Thrive

The internet can be a place where children and teens either thrive or find themselves in harm’s way. By keeping your communication open with your young one, setting clear boundaries, and monitoring their devices in an open and age-appropriate way, you can help them remain secure and safe.

Written by:
Shelby Dacko
Human Risk Analyst at Social-Engineer, LLC