Sonoma County Office of Education

Internet Safety: Tips for Parents

An adult and student review a web page together

Groundbreaking advances in technology make the 21st century an exciting time to live. There is an endless amount of information at our fingertips, and people all over the world are connecting with each other in diverse ways. There are many benefits to living in the digital age, but with those benefits come challenges and responsibilities—especially when teaching youth about how to be safe, ethical users of the internet.

Young people are particularly vulnerable to online dangers like cyberbullying, sexting, and even human trafficking. Each of these things can have life-changing and devastating consequences. Thankfully, knowing the right information can help minimize potential risks. That’s why it’s important for parents to regularly talk to their children about online safety. The tips and resources listed on this page are meant to help guide you in starting the conversation.

Online Safety Tips at a Glance

  1. Talk to your child.
    Start early, initiate the conversation, communicate your expectations, and be patient and supportive. It’s important to emphasize that actions online have real-world consequences. Once you put information out there, you can’t get it back.
  2. Consider using parental controls, especially for younger children.
    There are many tools that allow you to filter, block, and monitor the content your child posts and sees on social media and other apps.
  3. Help prevent cyberbullying and sexting.
    Encourage your child to treat others the way she wants to be treated, online and in person. If you suspect your child is being cyberbullied, tell her not to respond in kind. Instead, encourage her to work with you to save the evidence and talk to you about it. If the bullying persists, share the record with school officials or local law enforcement. It’s also important to strongly discourage young people from participating in sexting, an activity that can jeopardize friendships and reputations—and even break the law.
  4. Promote credibility.
    It’s important for online users of any age to learn how to determine the credibility of an article or website, especially with mass amounts of information circulating the internet. Encourage young people to think critically and be on the lookout for “fake news.”
  5. Make security top priority.
    Urge your child to use privacy settings on apps and create strong passwords. It is never safe to share personal information with strangers online. Alarmingly, this type of sharing and subsequent “meetups” are frequently how crime rings lure young people into human trafficking.

This information was adapted from the Federal Trade Commission.

These tips are not meant to be comprehensive, but to help get you started thinking about how you can foster best practices for internet safety in your family. There is a wealth of helpful information available to educators, parents, and students. We strongly recommend you learn more by referencing the resources listed below.

Resources and Helpful Links

Common Sense Media
This organization is dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. They provide information, advice, and tools to help parents and educators harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.

Digital Citizenship
SCOE’s Digital Citizenship page offers more tips and resources for teaching children how to use the internet responsibly.

Federal Trade Commission
This website offers free, printed guides with practical internet safety tips for parents, educators, and children.

Good Will Community Foundation
This page contains more internet safety resources for kids of all ages. 

#iSMART Campaign
Created by the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office, this campaign educates youth about the dangers, risks, and threats the internet and social media pose for them today and in the future.  

Keeping Youth Safe in the Cyberbullying & Social Media Era
These are slides from a presentation given by Esther Lemus of the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office on some of the possible short and long-term consequences of social media use (including criminal liability) and how adults can work together to help keep youth safe.