Teaching Kids About Not 'Talking To Strangers' In The Digital World

Their Safety On The Line


Digital predators are on the prowl. They stalk social media, dating apps, chat rooms, even the comment sections for popular online games, looking for a vulnerability to exploit, seeking to make a connection—hunting for prey.

There’s no shortage of advice for parents seeking to keep their children safe online. Just use Google: “6 Expert Tips… 8 Tips…13 Tips…”

Some Basics

Whether your Google search leads you to open a page with a half-dozen tips or a baker’s dozen, here are some basics nearly every expert suggests:

• Set Age Limits: Ultimately only parents can enforce the 13-year-old age restriction for joining Facebook and many other social media platforms.

• Set Time Limits: Don’t let your kids be online all the time. For example, make the dinner hour digital-free.

• Check Privacy Settings: Know what the privacy policies are for Facebook, Twitter, etc. Adjust the privacy settings on your browser through the options tab.

• Go Public In Your Own Home: Place all your computer monitors, laptops or tablets out in the open in communal areas in your home, so you can more easily keep an eye on your kids’ online activities.

• Explain Internet Permanence: Be sure kids understand a video, photo, ANYTHING they post on the web might come back to haunt them. Even “snapchats” can be screen-captured and traced back to the user. Essentially, once something is put on the internet trying to remove it is very much like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube.

• Set A Good Example: Start by shutting down your smartphone, laptop, PC (or MAC), iPads and/or smart televisions to talk with your kids about online safety. Then practice what you preach.

Stranger Danger

We’ll explore other online safety issues, such as cyber-bullying, in upcoming posts. But, first, one more basic that dates back long before Facebook or the World Wide Web.

Probably among the first lessons your parents taught you—and that your grandparents taught your parents—was “never talk to strangers.” That adage eventually became commonly known as “stranger danger.”

Your kids need to understand that just because they might be safe in their own home, thinking they're anonymous online, they need to still be wary about digitally communicating with strangers. The San Diego (California) District Attorney’s office conducted a recent study that revealed about 60% of teens received an e-mail or instant message from a stranger, and half those teens responded to these messages. About one in five teenagers were sexually solicited online by a stranger.

Preying Questions

Kids need to now be taught to watch out for strangers online. Encourage your kids not to overshare information online—something too many people of all ages tend to do on social media—and to be leery of answering questions designed to pry personal information from them:

• “You’re a Royals fan. Are you from Kansas City?”

• “I love dogs. What did you name your puppy?”

• “I’m a Pisces. When’s your birthday?”

• “What did you say your favorite teacher’s name was?”

• “What sports do you play? Are you on the teams at your school?”

Most kids would probably flee from a stranger trying to engage them in this kind of chat in the “real world.” Be sure your kids know answering a stranger’s questions can also be perilous in the “digital world.”  


• 13 Tips For Monitoring Kids’ Social Media (parenting.com)

• Security Tips – Staying Safe On Social Networking Sites (us-cert.gov)

• How to Keep Kids Safe Online, According to Facebook’s Head of Global Safety (fatherly.com)

• How Can I Protect My Child From Strangers Online? (safewise.com)

• Protecting Children Online (sdcda.org)