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Talking It Over: Protecting Your Kids Online Starts with a Conversation


Published August 10, 2023 • 5 Min Read

Children and youth today have grown up with the internet. They have always lived in a time when they could go online to find answers, connect with friends, and do research for school projects. Because many kids are such savvy online users, many parents allow them to use the internet and social media without a lot of supervision. A recent study from MediaSmarts reveals that 60 per cent of parents aren’t checking up on their online behaviour, trusting their kids to make smart decisions.

Yet, while your kids may be honest and trustworthy online citizens, many internet users are not — and criminals can be extremely adept at tricking young people into giving up sensitive and private information. Here, we run down the common dangers kids and youth face online, how to protect against them, and the conversation starters that can keep the lines of communication open and your kids safe online.

Common dangers

Your kids might face a number of threats online. While it may seem overwhelming, staying on top of these threats can help you educate your kids about cyber safety and protect them without monitoring their every move.


Cyberbullying is a form of bullying among youth through online social media platforms. It tends to take shape as abusive, targeted, deliberate, and repeated behaviour intended to harm another person. Creating and posting non-consensual and/or inappropriate images is a common form of cyberbullying.

Online luring

Online luring is when an adult online communicates with someone under 18 for inappropriate purposes, typically through chats, messaging, or texting.

Malware infections

If your child clicks the wrong link or enters their information into a malicious site, they could unwittingly give someone else access to their device or download software that can harm your computer, access personal information, and lock or destroy files.

Inappropriate content

It is easy for youth to access content — whether through websites or streaming services — that is inappropriate for their age. In some cases, if your child’s device has been infected with malware, they could be subject to unwanted ads and pop-ups that display or lead to such content.

Online scams

Many scams target children, from online shopping scams, fake contests and scholarships to online quizzes. With promises of deals, prizes and awards, these scams lure kids into clicking links and entering their personal details.

How to protect your kids

Although there are many dangers online, keeping your kids safe doesn’t have to involve taking their devices away. Here are some simple ways to protect both your children and the devices they use.

Parental controls

Many internet security software products – as well as some devices and websites – give you the opportunity to put parental controls in place. These controls can block access to certain websites, filter inappropriate content, and manage the time of day your child goes online and for how long.

Anti-virus software

Antivirus protection is equally critical for your family’s online safety. Websites that appear legitimate may carry malicious code or could redirect your child to a fake site which looks the same but actually contains a virus. Anti-virus programs do automatic checks to ensure your hard drive doesn’t get infected and blocks malware from getting through.

Bringing devices into common areas

One simple way to reduce the risk of online dangers is to have a house rule that all devices are used while in a common area, such as a family room or kitchen. In doing so, your child won’t be online at night or alone, limiting their exposure to online dangers.

Open conversation

The best way to protect your kids is to speak with them openly and regularly about cyber safety. Demonstrating that you trust their actions, while sharing advice for smart and safe online usage, can go hand in hand to create savvy and aware young people.

Topics of conversation

While the exact topics of conversation you’ll cover with your child will vary and evolve with their age, there are some common talks to consider having:

  • Assume everything you post is public. Once an image, video or message is online, it can go anywhere so it’s important to only post or share content you would be comfortable sharing publicly.

  • Protect your passwords. Make them hard to guess and don’t share them, even with your friends.

  • Never click links received by someone you don’t know. If your child receives a text or email from a sender they don’t recognize, teach them about the dangers of clicking links – even if the sender promises a big prize just for visiting a website and entering some personal details. Teach them the adage: If something appears too good to be true, it probably is!

  • Question what you see online. Not everyone is who they seem online, and people can easily lie about their age, gender, location, interests, and intentions. Never share sensitive information or photos with someone you’ve never met in person.

  • “I’m here for you.” Emphasize to your child that should they encounter anything uncomfortable or upsetting online, that you’re there for support. If they find themselves in a distressing situation (i.e., being cyberbullied or extorted), reassure them that they are not alone, and you’ll get through this together.

The fact is, being online is part of today’s youth culture, and it would be difficult to keep them offline altogether. Understanding the dangers, teaching them smart cyber behaviour, and keeping the lines of communication open can protect them from common threats and help them develop important cyber safety skills.

1 MediaSmarts/HabiloMedias, 03 Nov, 2022

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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