When should children learn about the risks of the internet?

That all-important talk - at what age should you introduce your child to the risks posed by the online world?..

What's the most effective way to ensure your child stays safe in any scenario you have little control over?

Consistent, regular and open talks prove to be the best way to keep a child safely informed, so this is exactly what you need to do when it comes to preparing their curious minds for the internet. 

The risks of the internet are all too real, but its sheer scale and level of practicality mean your child will almost certainly embrace it in the future.

For this reason, it's essential that you sit down with your child and tell them how the internet works, what it's for and what they need to be aware of. So at what stage of a child's life should they be introduced to this all-important discussion? 

Where to Start?

There are many factors that determine the age your child should be introduced the internet. These include the experiences your child already has of the online world, as well as what their common interests are.

It can take many children plenty of time before they find entertainment from iPad's, laptops or computers, whereas others pick it up much quicker.

Either way, possessing any device that can connect to the internet as a parent should be accompanied by a level of responsibility that includes instructing your children on the do's and don'ts of the internet. 

baby with a laptop

Online Safety for Kids Aged 3 - 5

If you have chosen to introduce digital technology to your child at the early age of 3, certain parental restrictions are absolutely essential.

Kids become curious at a very young age, but the main danger with a toddler accessing the internet is that they may unintentionally visit websites that could be harmful.

It is unlikely that, without instruction, a child between the ages of 3 and 5 would know how to use the internet.

However, this is exactly what makes the use of technology at such a young age a problem as far as online safety for kids and security is concerned. 

For these reasons, a recommended approach for kids within this age bracket is a complete parental control system that incorporates restrictions and rules.

Make sure your child cannot access harmful content and monitor their online habits with McAfee's Parental Controls.

Online Safety for Kids Aged 6 - 8

Kids in this age bracket are more likely to use devices with intent to access the internet and to visit certain websites. It is at this stage where sitting your child down and discussing the dangers posed by the internet is a great idea. 

Not only are children more likely to listen and obey your parental control methods, they are also at a stage in their life where information is obtained and processed efficiently.

As they have very little experience of the online world, the talk you have with them will be of far greater importance. It will stick with them for as long as they continue to use the internet as a child. 

Online Safety for Kids Aged 9 and Above

Children above the age of 9 may well have already used the internet for one reason or another, although by this stage parental controls should be enforced.

If not, it is absolutely essential that they are. By the age of 9 curiosity will have overpowered any child who has not been restricted by parental controls; so much so that they will use their own devices or even a friends to use the internet. 

You should ideally look to discuss the dangers of the internet with your child before they reach the age of 9 and certainly before they start secondary school (age 11-12).

By 11 the internet is all around them, both at home and in education. A child without appropriate guidance could quite easily visit sites that may be harmful to them.