Your little one isn’t so little anymore. And with their age also comes increased curiosity and responsibilities--both in real life and on the net. The World Wide Web is a fascinating place, but it’s also somewhere you should tread carefully. Instill in your child the right amount of caution and integrity, and they’ll likely have no large issue browsing the Internet.

First of all, it’s incredibly important to value and respect your child’s privacy and independence during their coming of age. Though they may still seem little to you, you may be surprised at how mature and thoughtful they’ve become! How you treat your children will influence them in how they treat others, whether that be their friends, siblings, neighbors, other adults, and of course, you, the parents.

The best and clearest way to respect their privacy but also keep them safe is to first pen a cell phone/internet usage contract with them. Decide when, for how long, and where they will browse the Internet. Keep them a part of the conversation instead of just telling them “Okay, this is is how it’s going to work…” Listen to their ideas and opinions, even if you don’t agree with them. Though as the parent you have the final say, don’t disregard their arguments or suggestions. This kind of efficient communication is crucial in building trust and strengthening your relationship with your child. Make sure to list clear boundaries and consequences for going against them.

Furthermore, have a frank talk with them about the dangers of going online, such as hackers, scammers, and other online predators. Remind them that these people are equal to hunters tracking down their prey, but with a seemingly friendly mask. They’ve honed their skills and can adapt to many situations, so tell them to beware of adding/friending people they don’t know in real life, and to always remember that whatever is sent online (whether text, audio, or image) will be floating around on the net forever. That delete button doesn’t actually do much, after all. And instead of warning your child about “stranger danger” and “weird old creeps,” explain to your kids that most online predators seem like friendly kids or adults who are easy and fun to talk to.

Lastly, teach them to be good digital citizens and to practice “netiquette.” Don’t say insulting, harmful, derogatory, etc. things online that you wouldn’t say in person. Cyber bullying is an increasingly large issue in today’s digital society, so teach them to recognize and stand up against it. Additionally, let them know that joining in or just “watching it happen” and being a bystander is not okay!

Keeping an open line of communication is important. Talk about what they’re doing online on a weekly basis, but remember to ask as an interested parent! Don’t probe or judge your child. If you’ve given them access to the Internet and/or a digital device, they are warranted some level of privacy and trust. Of course, you know your child best, so if you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, you should maintain the authority to ask your child to see their phone. However, emphasize that you are doing this because you are worried about them, not because you want to snoop. And before all else, talk it out first! Trying to go behind their backs or becoming suspicious about every little detail will make your child feel suffocated, frustrated, and even more on guard.

Author's Bio: 

KidGuard's sole mission is to protect your children online. Our team spends every waking hour thinking about how to bring awareness and inspire solutions on issues of cyber bullying, online predators, teen suicide, and childhood depression in the age of technology. KidGuard employs a team of researchers and writers to educate parents on solutions to digital parenting problems and also runs a popular child cell phone monitoring software to allow parents to stay involved in their child's life online.