How to Use Check-ins to Talk to Your Child About Online Safety

By Andrea Nelson
May 14, 2024
Dad and son talking on couch

Wondering how to talk to your child about online safety? One of the most effective methods for keeping your child safe online is to have regular conversations about their internet activity and what they encounter. This means looking at and talking about everything from the accounts they follow to the videos they watch to the messages they send and receive. Read on to learn the ins and outs of online safety check-ins and how to implement them for your family. 

What is an online safety check-in?

Online safety check-ins are a designated time set aside to spend with your child where you discuss their online activity. Here are some suggestions of what to focus on during your check-ins: 

  • Ask your child what interests them online.
  • Give them space to talk about their online activity. 
  • Discuss things you see that concern you and anything that has made them uncomfortable online. 
  • Explore new and interesting accounts they follow. 
  • View their social feeds together. 
  • Create a safe space for your child to bring up any challenges they’ve faced online.

Why should you talk to your child about online safety?

Online predators, cyberbullies, and scammers are just a few of the dangers children face online. Because of the potential pitfalls, experts increasingly recommend parents monitor kids online. 

In addition to following your child’s social media accounts and using a monitoring service, conversations about online safety are one of the best ways parents can stay on top of what their kids are up to online.

How to have an online safety check-in

The most effective safety check-ins happen when parents are prepared. Here are some tips for making these conversations work for you: 

  • Start early. The time to begin check-ins is as soon as your child begins using devices, be it a tablet, computer, or phone. If they’ve already been on devices for years, don’t fret! It’s never too late to start. 
  • Schedule it in advance. It helps kids to know what to expect. Pick a time when they’re not distracted and you’re in a good headspace for the discussion. Consider putting your check-ins on the calendar so you’re less likely to forget or blow past them. 
  • Explain the purpose. Be clear the check-ins aren’t punishments — they’re an open space to discuss what’s on their mind and for you to learn more about their online life. 
  • Encourage them to be skeptical. Teach your child to think critically about what they see online. Show them how to spot misinformation and how to find reputable websites. 
  • Educate them on the dangers. Be honest with your child about your concerns and the dangers they may face online. The goal is not to scare them, but to empower them to play an active role in their own online safety. 
  • Be transparent about your expectations. Set clear guidelines for how you expect them to behave online and what concerns you’ll be watching for during your check-ins.

Getting started

After a few go-arounds, your safety check-ins will start to feel pretty routine. But starting can be daunting. Here are some conversation-starters to get you going:  

  • “I want to talk about the importance of keeping personal information private online. Why do you think that's important?”
  • “How do you decide which apps or games are okay to download? Let's go over what makes an app safe and appropriate.”
  • “Setting screen time boundaries is really important. Why do you think it's important to have a balance between time spent online and time doing other things?”
  • “When you’re online, do you feel pressure to act a certain way or to share things to get likes or comments? Tell me more about that.”
  • “Are there any questions you have about the internet or social media that we haven't talked about yet?”

In short 

A growing body of experts recommend parents monitor their children online. Regular online safety check-ins are one of the best things you can do to keep your child safe online. 

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