How can I make sure my tween stays safe online?

Keeping your tween safe online seems to be becoming more difficult. Children’s screen time has been nudging steadily upwards for years. And young tweens 7-10 years old are spending more time than ever communicating with others in games, social media, shared homework documents, texting, email, etc. Kids this age can be challenging because they are eager to be independent but still need lots of parent support. 

In addition to keeping their online interactions safe, you also want to guide your child to make good choices and use smart judgment when you’re not around to provide hands-on help. Digital Respons-Ability’s 3M’s of Digital Parenting—Model, Manage, and Monitor–will help you teach your kids to recognize potential online dangers, empower them to take appropriate action, and strengthen your relationship so that they know they can come to you when something goes wrong. Here’s how to use our method to keep young tweens’ online interactions safe:

How do I keep my tween safe online?

Model safe and appropriate online communication. Demonstrate online safety with your own social media and also establish these best practices for keeping your tween safe online:

  • Don’t accept friend requests from strangers or open text, private messages, and emails from anyone you don’t know.
  • Don’t share personal details of your private life, including full name, address, and school.
  • Get parents’ permission before sharing photos and images.
  • Never take a conversation off the original platform or “go private.”

Manage your childs’ online activity. Discuss basic safety rules with your young tween, and explain that you’re in charge until they demonstrate responsibility, maturity, and compliance with the rules. A few to start with:

  • Children must ask permission before downloading anything, registering for anything, and logging into anything.
  • Parents get copies of all accounts, online logins, and passwords.
  • Parents can use settings (such as enabling private accounts, disabling private messaging on social media, and implementing downtime at night) to aid in keeping kids safe.

Monitor your child’s communication and well-being. Staying engaged and curious about your child’s online interactions and keeping your eyes and ears open for any potential red flags will help keep tweens safe online. Be sure to include whether your child’s emotional health may be negatively impacted from their budding digital social life in your conversations. Here’s how:

  • Perform regular, unannounced, in-person spot checks of their phones and devices to make sure their chats, comments, and social feeds are appropriate.
  • Make sure they’re talking online only during times you’ve allowed (i.e. not when they’re supposed to be asleep, in school, or doing homework or chores).
  • Ask questions about their online friends and get a gauge of how they’re feeling about online socialization. If it’s not great, then help them pull back.
  • Make sure they know that they can come to you or another trusted adult (such as a teacher or coach) —even if they made a mistake or something bad happened online. 

Check out Digital Respons-Ability’s Free Resources page for more tips and guidance. We also offer Digital Parenting Consultations – schedule one with me or Carrie to get started on your family’s media plan with a little extra help.

Caroline Knorr is a journalist and expert on parenting in the Digital Age.