Keep Kids Safe Online

Mom with daughter online

Between distance-learning and social distancing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency, District kids are now spending more time online than ever before. Unfortunately, more time spent on computers, phones, and tablets can leave children vulnerable to online exploitation.

To engage young people and families during COVID-19 and share tips on how to stay safe online, OAG hosts weekly #AskDCOAG Twitter chats on topics such as cyberbullying, preventing sexual assault, stopping child sex trafficking, and others. These chats and resources from partner organizations have highlighted important and practical online safety information that can help keep District youth safe.

Parents can follow these tips to protect their kids online:

  • Establish rules and expectations: Make sure your children are aware of your expectations around what platforms they are permitted to use, what sites they may visit, apps they may download, and what constitutes acceptable behavior in their online interactions. 
    • Possible rules might include requiring your child to ask before sharing any personal information; never meeting in person with someone they “met” online; never sending images of themselves to someone they “met” online; and alerting you if someone sends them explicit images.
       
  • Open and continual communication with kids: Have nonconfrontational conversations about what they’re doing online and who they interact with. Give them an opportunity to tell you if something or someone they encounter online makes them feel sad, scared, uncomfortable, or confused; offer genuine interest and make it clear that they can always ask you questions about what is or is not appropriate.
     
  • Encourage kids to not engage in cyberbullying: Just as words can hurt in person, they can also hurt virtually. Ask your kids to think how they would feel if someone said something hurtful to them online. If they see mean content on social media, remind them not to share it or “like” it. If your kid is the victim of cyberbullying, encourage them to confide in you, a teacher, or a trusted adult.
     
  • Review privacy settings and geolocation: Pay close attention to the privacy settings with which your child is operating online and make any adjustments you deem necessary. This can include turning off geolocation services, which will protect your child’s location.
     
  • Educate yourself about risks and red flags: If you child is taking extra steps to conceal what they are doing online, and/or is receiving gifts from people you don’t know, it might be a sign that they are being enticed online.
     
  • Model good behavior and healthy habits: You can demonstrate proper conduct by engaging with your child on the things they like to do online. Whether by scrolling through social networking feeds, playing online games, or creating photo and video content together, by showing them how you behave online, you’re giving them a model to follow.
     
  • Follow video safety tips: Exercise caution by keeping video chats private, downloading software updates, confirming the authenticity of any invitations you or your child might receive, and familiarizing yourself with the security features for any video chat applications. More information can be found in OAG’s Security Tips for Safe Video Chats.

More online safety resources can be found from our friends at netsmartz.org, a program from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that helps young people be safer online.

For updates from OAG on COVID-19, consumer tips, resources, and warnings: 

The Office of the Attorney General works to educate District residents about their consumer rights, responds to individual consumer complaints, and takes appropriate law enforcement action when possible. Browse OAG’s Consumer Protection Library on important consumer safety topics like Online Privacy.