Safe Surfing – Internet Safety for Young Kids

The tiniest hands in our house have mastered the art of swiping, clicking and typing on anything with a flat-screen or a keyboard. And since Bert and Ernie have been known to do some unsavory things on YouTube, it’s never too soon to implement Internet safety tools at home.

Safe SurfingOur 2-year-old takes selfies and watches movies on a tablet as deftly as our 7-year-old searches the web for the latest rubber-band bracelet tutorial. Unfortunately, an innocent search for Rainbow Loom greatness can lead to an eye-popping blend of lewd, violent and even racist videos.

I thought we still had time before we needed to worry about online dangers. But recently our first-grade daughter admitted that she and a friend had secretly looked up “throw-up” videos on our laptop, I learned fast how to clean up the unfiltered Internet vomit. These are my best tips for keeping young kids safer on the Web.


Apple devices like iPads, iPhones and iPods have parental controls built-in. The capability already exists to prevent little hands from accessing applications like Camera, FaceTime, Safari, YouTube and iTunes by pass-code-protecting these apps in the Restrictions menu.

Apple computers also have a built-in content filter for web browsers, blocking adult content. Despite the filters some shady links may sneak through, so Apple offers a further layer of protection, which can limit Internet access to a specified lists of websites, such as or Activating parental control features requires setting up a separate user account, so the adult (or administrator) can use the same computer without filters.

Other computers running Windows Vista offer similar built-in tools, so it’s worth checking before buying expensive software.


Google’s Safe Search Kids acts like regular Google, while scrubbing search results for inappropriate content. Parents can set a browser homepage to the filtered search engine and young kids never know the difference.

Parents can block adult content on YouTube by turning on its safety feature, which is almost hidden at the bottom of YouTube’s home page. Toggling the safety feature, which cleans up results, also automatically enables Google’s Safe Search Kids for the user’s web browser. There are limits to this feature though, so parents should stay close anytime kids use YouTube.


Safe SurfingCompanies like ClickN KIDS and Nabi have created fully functioning tablets designed for children. The stylish, durable devices come with filtered Internet access, preloaded games and books, and streaming movies and TV shows geared toward kids. We have a Nabi at our house and both of our girls can use it easily. It also has a chores chart, which tracks and rewards our 7-year-old with Nabi coins she can use to buy new games if she makes her bed or completes other tasks.


I recently spoke with the technology coordinator at our first-grader’s elementary school to get a professional perspective on Internet safety, and she emphasized two main rules for parents.


Educate kids about what they should and shouldn’t be doing online. Ask other parents how they are handling Internet use. Listen to what children say about websites and apps, and research what kids are doing online.


Get involved in children’s technology experiences. Supervise Internet use. Tell kids what to do with unpleasant material, and don’t overreact when they find it. Learn about the latest tools for staying connected with their child’s Internet activity. As powerful as the Internet is for kids, it’s just as powerful for parents.


Like most things in life, the Internet and technology will only get more complicated as our kids get older. I know one day I’ll look back and wish that throw-up videos were my biggest concern, but until then I’ll do my best to keep my kids surfing safe.


Jamie RichJamie Rich is a freelance feature writer covering lifestyle, travel and culture. Her work has appeared in publications such as The Washington Post, Slate and The New York Times Motherlode blog. Jamie moved to Ponte Vedra from London last year with her husband and two young daughters. She blogs at about life as a domesticated expatriate, dispatching reviews, tongue-in-cheek stories and travel tips. Jamie has spent most of the past ten years abroad, living in Moscow; Washington, D.C.; Douala, Cameroon; and London. She holds a master’s in journalism from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s in creative writing from Florida State University.

Safe Surfing



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