Internet Safety Tips for Parents from a Private Investigator

Kinsey Investigations Internet Safety Tips - A mother leans over a school age child as they work together on a laptop computer

At Kinsey Investigations, we’re not only the California private investigations firm with a heart, we’re also parents, ourselves. We know raising children in this day and age is no walk in the park, and we work on many cases, both heartwarming and heartbreaking, involving children including locating missing persons in Los Angeles, child custody and child support investigations, and many other types of family law cases. While it’s never been easy to keep kids safe through the vulnerable years of childhood, the rise of the Internet, social media, live server gaming and so many other aspects of our hyper-connected world have magnified parents’ challenges exponentially. From cyber bullying and online predators, to email scams and catfishing, ask any L.A. private detective, and they’ll easily name a long list of cyber crimes carried out online targeting kids and adults as well. It’s exactly these phenomena that have given rise to private investigations services such as digital forensics, social media background checks, and online fraud investigations. It’s bad enough that hackers and scammers take advantage of vulnerable adults online. It’s positively insidious that there are people who turn their nefarious intentions toward children, but all we, as parents, can do is arm our kids with knowledge and do our very best to keep them safe. With Kinsey Investigations being the go-to California private detective agency for all things family law, we wanted to offer the following advice to all parents struggling to raise children in our modern, highly-connected world.

Preventing Catfishing, Cyberbullying & Online Fraud

Thinking of all the advancements in technology over the past few decades can make your head spin, especially in terms of Internet connectivity, what people are doing and sharing online, and both the virtual platforms and devices being used for it. Is it any wonder that so many parents feel lost in terms of how to keep their children safe in the face of all this change? At Kinsey Investigations, we know all too well about the kind of people looking to exploit someone vulnerable. It’s one of the reasons we take cases like locating missing persons in Los Angeles so seriously, because we know the longer a vulnerable person is separated from their loved ones, the more likely they are to encounter someone looking to exploit them. And now, in our modern, highly-connected age, children no longer need to be physically separated from their parents or guardians to come into contact with those who would manipulate and take advantage of them.

There are many steps parents and guardians can take to keep their children as safe as possible online. Just as parents have always taught their children how to avoid potentially dangerous situations and people in real life, so modern parents must expand on those lessons to include online safety in age-appropriate ways as their children grow up. While appropriate amounts of screen time and the kinds of online threats change drastically through different age groups, the strategies below have the potential to help a large number of parents, especially since, unlike some other threats their safety, online risks generally increase as the child gets older.

  • Delaying the use of social media – Social media is a prime vehicle for both cyberbullying and grooming by online predators. Delaying its use till the child is in high school or even longer can only benefit them.
  • Periodically checking through any devices your child uses, especially if they have their own tablet or phone.
  • Taking advantage of all the built-in parental controls on both the devices and the specific apps your child uses. Google, for instance, offers a Family Link app that parents can download and link their children’s accounts to for closer monitoring, and apple devices offer the Screen Time app for both limiting screen time and monitoring activity.
  • Most Internet service providers have apps that parents can download to regulate Internet usage in their home. These apps can be a huge boon to parents through monitoring which devices are connected to their signal and when the devices are using the Internet. Parents can choose to shut off Internet access to some devices and not others, set up recurring time windows when Internet will be turned off and turned on, and much more.
  • Parents may also choose to pay for and install a comprehensive monitoring service such as Bark or Kidslox to help them monitor and control their children’s Internet usage in their homes. Parents who choose this option should understand that these services are no substitute for educating their children about risks and risky behaviors online, especially since any protections offered are largely limited to the child’s access within their own home, and these services cannot monitor or restrict a child from access while they’re at school or spending time in the homes of their friends or extended family.
  • So, perhaps most importantly, parents need to talk to their children, explain the potential risks of social media and other platforms, encourage them to feel safe asking questions, and be honest with them, again, in age-appropriate ways, about the situations and people that could put them in harm’s way when they spend time online. See more about this suggestion in our closing thoughts below.

Building up Trust to Build up Safety

At Kinsey Investigations, no one understands better than we do the importance of taking every precaution to keep your children safe. What you may not hear from other sources, however, is that one of the MOST important ways to maximize your children’s safety at any age is to build trust with them. Any parent can lock down their child’s access to Internet connected devices, forbid their engagement with various social media and other online platforms, and threaten dire consequences if they step out of line. But the parents who maintain an open dialogue with their children, explain the reasoning behind the limits they’re setting, and most importantly, really listen (without judgement) and provide open, honest feedback when their children push back have the best chance of helping their kids avoid dangerous situations. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. It’s never too late to admit your mistakes and apologize, especially when the bond that’s on the line is between yourself and your child. Keeping this bond strong is one of the greatest things parents can do to keep their children safe in both the real and virtual worlds.