Five ways parents can keep their kids safe when learning online

As the global pandemic continues, many students are still learning from home online either full-time or during certain days of the week as part of a hybrid learning rotation. Although schools have a responsibility to keep students safe when they’re learning online, parents also play a critical role in their children’s online safety.

Children should be learning how to be good digital citizens, which includes learning how to stay safe online, how to act and post appropriately, and how to find, evaluate, and cite high-quality information. Although many school systems are teaching these lessons to students as young as kindergarten, parents shouldn’t assume their children are necessarily learning these skills in class.

As a parent, here are five simple things you can do to help keep your child safe when learning online:

Talk to your child about online safety, how to interact with others online, and your expectations for his or her behavior.

Because of the anonymous nature of the Internet, students might be tempted to post things online that they’d never say to someone face to face. Make sure your child understands that he or she should use the same conduct when interacting with others online as in person. Your child should also know not to give out any personal information online.

Monitor what your child is posting outside of school.

Download the most popular apps your child is using, such as Snapchat or Instagram. This will give you some insight into how the apps work and what type of content your child is seeing. Follow your child’s online accounts and have your child “friend” you, so you can see what he or she is posting to make sure it’s appropriate.

Review the privacy and security policies on websites that your child uses frequently.

If your child is 12 or under, make sure the websites that your child is using for school or for personal use don’t collect any personal information without your written permission (as required by law). If you do give permission, or if your child is a teen, make sure you understand how any personal information that is collected will be used. (If it’s an educational website, this information should be used for educational purposes only.)

Encourage your child to report online threats to a teacher, counselor, school principal, or another trusted adult.

If your child feels threatened or bullied online by another student at any time — whether during a lesson or outside of school — make sure your child tells a trusted school or district official. Know the warning signs that could indicate your child is the victim of cyber bullying — and if you notice one or more of these signs, talk to your child about what’s going on to cause this behavior.

Ensure that your child’s online learning activities are fully protected by a robust web filter.

To support safe remote learning, your child’s school should be using an Internet filtering solution that works just as well when students are learning from home as it does while students are at school (like ContentKeeper).

The solution should work equally well with all devices and browsers and should enable full visibility and reporting of students’ online activity, regardless of what kind of device they’re using or where they’re logging on from. Talk with administrators at your child’s school about what filtering solution they have in place and whether it allows for full visibility and control both inside and outside of school.

Here are some additional resources to help you talk with your child about online safety and responsible digital citizenship:

Stay Safe Online At Home (resources for parents from the National Cyber Security Alliance)

Privacy & Internet Safety (parent resources from Common Sense Media)

Parent Guides (information from ConnectSafely on social media platforms, apps, and websites frequently used by children and teens)

Just for You: Parents (information and resources from the Federal Trade Commission on how parents can talk to kids about making safe decisions when they socialize online)


The former editor of eSchool News, Dennis Pierce has more than 20 years of experience writing about education and technology.