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The Online Protection Talk

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You know your kids are doing it... but are they doing it safely?

A Trend Micro E-Guide

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As a parent, you might think there is only one tricky conversation to be had with your child about ‘protection’…but you would be wrong. The Internet has become a daily part of all of our lives, including those of our children’s, and your job is to help your child avoid engaging – knowingly or unknowingly – in associated risky behavior.

Many parents are aware that digital communications can bring unwanted consequences. In fact, 83% of parents in a recent survey reported being very concerned about the things to which their children are exposed online. But, just as having the original “talk” with kids makes even the toughest parent squirm a bit, many of these surveyed parents are demonstrating a head-in-the-sand approach to their children’s online activities. Only 30% of parents in this survey report visiting their child’s social media profiles.

Today’s parents can take a proactive, realistic approach to their children’s online activities by having an honest and non-threatening discussion about safety. It’s the digital generation’s new “talk.” And just because all the kids are doing it, doesn’t mean it can’t be done safely. 

The-talk Overview

You wouldn’t launch into the “sex talk” with your child by demanding to know who they’ve gone to third base with or whether they’ve ever worn a condom (awkward), and you should approach the online-protection talk with similar finesse.

The objective of “the talk” should not be to scare, it should be to prepare. Like when your child goes to that first school dance, you want to build the confidence to explore something new and exciting, but at the same time make smart personal decisions (that is “Ask her to dance, but no making out!”).

Following are tips for opening the lines of communication in the first place, so that you have open ears and an open mind for the details, later: See all of our recommendations in the downloadable PDF E-Guide.

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Establish a general sense of trust between yourself and your child that your child knows he or she will not be judged for sharing feelings or telling the truth. This will assure that he or she can tell you about anything online that makes them uncomfortable, and that all online privileges will not be lost because of it. 

Organize yourself before the talk, so that you yourself convey confidence.

You don’t need to be a technology genius to talk about things, people and behaviors that are dangerous, but you do need to have a basic understanding of threat types and terminology. Trend Micro™ has published a glossary of key terms that can get you up-to- speed on Internet threats. 

Scale use of technology terms to your child’s age and computer-use level.

You may be able to use terms from or read the Trend Micro glossary together with your pre-teen, but find “real-world” ways to describe concepts to a younger child. And some of the more sinister sounding tech jargon – think “virus” and “worm” – can make an impression on even small children.

Make sure your kids know why you're having this conversation

Make it clear that you want to have this conversation about online protection, not because you think he or she will encounter a minefield of threats, but because you simply want the family to be prepared to respond if that happens. Compare it to the family rule that everyone wear seat belts in the car – chances are, you’ll get from Point A to Point B with no problems, but you want everyone safe should someone else run a red light. Acknowledge that there are more positive and fun things to do online than negative and harmful, but tell your child that it is your job as a parent to make sure he or she is aware of potential dangers.

Use what your kids say their friends are doing online as a way to open the talk

Listen. When you hear a passing reference to what a friend is doing online, use it as a natural entrée into a more meaningful chat, i.e. “What do you think about Jennie posting those pictures online? Do you think that sends a good or a bad message?” A structured, sit-down conversation about online safety is a must, but also takes advantage of everyday moments as opportunities to reinforce family online rules and values. 

The volume and types of online threats have grown exponentially over the last 25 years, so you should arrange the information you want to provide simply, so that “the talk” is easy for both you and your child to follow. One of the most straightforward ways to think and talk about online dangers is in terms of threats your child may receive, and those he or she may (even inadvertently) send out. Just as you would cover in the “sex talk,” you want your child to be aware of both the perils of unwanted advances and how and why to avoid indecent exposure.

See all of our recommendations in the downloadable PDF E-Guide.

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Unwanted Advances

Children need to understand that these inbound threats can happen without any provocation or because of innocent browsing. Regardless, their job is to alert you should they encounter any of the following and your job is to take action:

Inappropriate content

Explain to your child that, just like in the real world, there are people who do and say negative or hurtful things on the Internet and that you want to keep that information off your computer and out of your home. Encourage your child to ignore and report to you if friends or unknown individuals send them links to or attachments of pornographic, self-destructive or extreme information.

Unwanted contact

Cyberbullying and grooming are two serious and dangerous forms of online contact, and you should strongly persuade your child to let you know whether he or she has experienced or witnessed these activities. “Cyberbullying” is online harassment, and “grooming” is a sexual predator’s mode of preparing a child for molestation, by befriending them online, sharing sexual content and thoughts, and even requesting that they meet in person.

Learn the specifics of what to discuss in the downloadable PDF version.

Covert Web Threats

Tell your child to alert you should they notice that the computer is running slow; sending error messages that there are missing startup files or that it is out of memory; or suddenly restarting or not responding, because these are signs that your computer has a virus or been otherwise “attacked.” Like a flu that can keep your child sick and in bed for days, these are things that will take your computer out of commission so let your child know that everyone in the family has the important job of making sure their computers stay “healthy.”

Indecent Exposure

Children also need to understand that they can, often unknowingly, put themselves in harm’s way with the information they send and publish. Some of the most popular online activities for kids today are connecting through social media and file sharing, which are safe in theory but must be used wisely.  


Whether by a malicious link or your child sharing personal information openly in social media channels or emails, criminals want to find a way to make money off of others’ ignorance. With your child’s name, social security number, and date of birth, someone can get loans, credit cards in your child’s name, access your child’s existing bank accounts, open new bank accounts, lease or buy cars, get insurance, and more. Tell your child that this can cause very serious damage to him or her, now and in the future, and that they should never give this information to anyone they do not know, whether online or not.

Use Unintended or Illegal File Sharing

Also educate your child about the fact that illegal sharing sites offer very little protection against many of the computer threats, including malware and viruses discussed earlier and in our glossary of key terms. Remind your child that an infected computer could be a completely unusable computer and the family must exercise smart online practices to avoid making it “sick” with viruses and other ailments.

 There is no completely safe online activity, only safer online activity. The threats are there and sex offenders have contacted children via most of the major online services and the Internet. But if your child is going to use the Internet -- and today it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when” -- the best ways to keep him or her protected are:

  • fostering open, honest discussions with your children,
  • using appropriate blocking software like Titanium 2012 on all of the family’s Internet-enabled devices, including its parental controls,
  • monitoring your children’s online activity,
  • and following the tips in this guide.


Once you’ve had “the talk,” recognize that the rapidly evolving threat landscape may necessitate having it again, and even again, in order to keep your family’s preparedness relevant. The Trend Micro Internet Safety for Kids & Families is continually updated with the most current information and resources to help families have safe online relationships, connections and communications.

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