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How to Make the Internet Safer for Kids

What if we had a safer internet?

As parents, we spend a lot of time trying to keep our kids safe. Increasingly (and for kids as young as infants), keeping them safe includes being smart about technology and the internet. The internet is no longer something kids log onto for a few hours at a time. Rather, it infuses most, if not all, parts of their daily lives. Pretty soon, the "Internet of Things," the "smart home," and the "self-driving car" are going to be what we call things, your home, and your teenager's new car.

So in honor of Safer Internet Day, here are a few tips to keep your family safer -- online, at home, and everywhere in between.

Prevent unwanted exposure. Cover the camera on your computer, and on any smart device, when you're not using using it. Better yet, turn those devices off when they're not in use.

Have a no-tracking zone. Turn off geolocation tracking on your phone and your kids' phones. Only leave it on when it's needed, such as for navigating an unexpected traffic jam.

Get educated. Read Common Sense's Kids Privacy Zone report. Then talk to your kids about steps they can take to model good digital citizenship and be safe, responsible, and effective online.

Don't overshare. Think twice before you post something that may be embarrassing to your kids. The same goes for sharing information that could make your kids easier targets of identity theft. A full name, date and city of birth, and parents' names can go a long way in the wrong hands.

Change the default. Change any remaining default passwords on your smart devices at home. This makes it harder for hackers to access them. And while you're at it, make sure all your smart devices have the latest software and security updates.

Consider a freeze. With even babies being victims of identity theft, check whether your state offers a way to freeze your child's credit. It may make sense to keep it locked down until they're older.

Ariel Fox Johnson
Ariel Fox Johnson is Senior Counsel for Global Policy at Common Sense Media, where she advocates for smart practices, policies, and rules to help all kids thrive in today’s wired world. Her work focuses on enhancing family privacy rights, strengthening students' educational privacy, and promoting robust consumer protections in the online world. She frequently advises policymakers, industry, and tech experts, and has helped develop laws on student privacy, consumer privacy, and the Internet of Things. Ariel is a graduate of Harvard College and Law School. Prior to joining Common Sense, Ariel worked on privacy, media, intellectual property, and technology matters at corporate law firms, and provided pro bono assistance to nonprofits and asylum seekers.