Digital Literacy: A Smart Parent’s Guide

Do you have a child, tween, or teen who uses the internet? If so, you should be aware of the following facts:

  • Teens largely believe that the internet is, for the most part, pretty private
  • Teens think that they are mature enough to make decisions for their life online
  • Teens think that they are safe when on the internet and that people don’t typically hide their identity or pretend to be someone else
  • Teens don’t generally feel “friending” a stranger can be dangerous
  • Teens think that since they are “better” with technology, that they can make better decisions than their parents about what are the best online practices

These are very obviously pretty naïve views that most teens have, and if you, as a parent, don’t step in and explain why these are not correct, and could be dangerous, you could be putting your kids into a bad situation. And, if you as an adult share the same beliefs as teens, you are sorely mistaken.

Make sure that you are always in communication with your kids about their use of the internet. Explain the risks involved and share stories with them about other teens who have gotten into trouble online. A study done by McAfee Antivirus concluded that more than one in 12 tweens who would befriend a stranger online would them meet that stranger in public. The reality is, “17-year-old Eddie” could easily be “47-year-old Bill”.


Online Rules That You Should Consider

Experts recommend that parents have a set of rules for their kids when it comes to using the internet. Here are some that you might want to consider:

  • You should know how to get into every account your kid has, including social media accounts. You should also check their accounts periodically.
  • This might sound ridiculous, and maybe even the impossible, don’t allow your kids to use social media, chat online, or (unless it is schoolwork related) text their friends until they are in 9th or 10th grade, and even then, never let them use any app or site that allows for anonymous communication.
  • Your 13-year old won’t “die” if they don’t have a TikTok or Snapchat account. Nothing good will come out of letting them have one. My kids don’t.
  • Let your kids use the internet but put a time limit on it. And it should be primarily used for school.
  • Don’t let your kids reply to messages from strangers and don’t allow them to add people online that they don’t know.
  • Don’t give out any personal info online, including phone numbers and addresses.
  • Make sure your kids know that kindness and respect are extremely important, and bullying others online is never acceptable.
  • Don’t give your kids your personal passwords for your accounts.
  • Don’t let your kids have access to devices any time they want. Have a “screen-free” family night where you go for a walk, go get ice cream, or have a family game night, instead.
  • Don’t allow digital devices to babysit your child.
  • Don’t allow mobile devices in the bedroom, and don’t let laptops into the bedroom unless your kids are using them for homework.
  • You shouldn’t let your kids post photos of themselves online without your permission.
  • Always look at chat logs, texts, and other online communications your kids are sending. Make sure they know that there will be consequences if you find out they are deleting messages.
  • Don’t let your kids download software or apps without permission.


Watch for These Mistakes

  • Don’t allow your kid to have a traditional smart phone before they are in the 9th You can give them a feature-phone, however, that you monitor.
  • Don’t let your kid use the internet when you aren’t watching what they are doing.
  • Don’t let your kids use the internet in areas where you can’t see what they are doing or behind closed doors.
  • Don’t let your kids play games online with chat enabled, as these are common magnets for sex predators.

Finally, lead by example. Just because other parents are letting their kids do some of these things, it doesn’t mean that you need to.


ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program