Reflections on National Internet Safety Month 2024

June 27, 2024

As National Internet Safety Month comes to an end, let’s take some time to reflect on the state of online safety. This month at FOSI, we published a series about National Internet Safety Month, that covered areas such as:  

We also spoke to the press about topics like: 

We also held two events - our annual European Forum and a Pride Month webinar. 

Also this month, the U.S Surgeon General has called for content ratings on social media, new voice moderation technology was introduced by Xbox, and Google launched new GenAI tools for education

It’s safe to say June has been a big month. 

With all this and more happening in the online safety space, what can you, as a parent/caregiver, do to cut through all the noise and raise your child to have the safest possible online experience? 

Take a deep breath, and know that it’s not all gloom and doom

One thing we talked a lot about this month at FOSI is the panic a lot of parents are feeling when it comes to their childrens’ online experiences. Some of this comes from some popular media in the current zeitgeist pushing the idea that digital devices are causing kids and teens to feel lonely, anxious, and maybe even develop mental health problems. 

This narrative is really scary. It’s also not completely true. Research shows that social media use and smartphone use do not lead to negative effects on a young persons’ wellbeing. In fact, having a digital device can actually make your child feel more connected to their peers and less lonely. That being said, there are certainly aspects of online use that are particularly risky and dangerous for kids and teens. Some things to look out for include targeted ads, likes and follower counts, infinite scroll, and of course, harmful/violent content. 

So, it’s complicated. While the online world can be a great place for young people to connect and express themselves, there are also things to pay attention to. Make sure you are having frequent and honest conversations with your kids about their media use, and you will both come to a better understanding of how to navigate your family’s digital world. 

On the whole, if you are involved in your kids’ digital life, and your entire family understands the rules and boundaries you have set together, the online world can be a rewarding place that can bring your kids joy, instead of pain. 

Use the parenting skills you already have 

I am not a parent or caregiver, but I am privileged to work in the online safety space and talk to parents about this topic rather frequently. One thing I know is true: parenting is the hardest job in the world. Throw in the entire online world on top of that? Are you kidding me?! Parents I’ve talked to seem overwhelmed by the online landscape and unsure about where to start the digital parenting process. 

Annie Gaughan did a great job of explaining this concept in her recent blog for FOSI. Think of digital parenting as an extension of the parenting you are already doing. When you are teaching your child to be kind to others IRL, make sure to also talk to them about being kind to others on the Internet. When you are teaching them to be wary of strangers asking probing questions, make sure to speak about the importance of privacy online.

Tailor your digital parenting strategy to suit your family 

Every family is different and unique, so every digital parenting strategy will be unique. There is a lot of advice out there about the proper age to give a child a digital device, how they should use it, and how you should enforce rules around it. Sifting through the many suggestions can be confusing and exhausting. Remember this: you know your family best, so create rules and boundaries that work best for your family. 

One of my favorite examples is the age-old advice, “no phones at the dinner table.” If this works well for you and yours, that’s great! However, not every family can have dinner together every night, and not every family centers their bonding time around dinner specifically. My fiancé and I aren’t able to eat together every night, so instead we dedicate our screen-free time to our evening walk with our dog. This advice goes for all aspects of digital parenting, and I find it can help parents feel less like they are striving for someone else’s version of perfection, and are instead creating their own rules and goals for their family to focus on.

For help getting started, check out FOSI’s device safety cards and online safety agreements

Understand that you are not alone 

Online safety is a topic that seems to be getting more and more popular as people start to realize its importance in creating a healthy society. It is so great that online safety is getting attention and being discussed more and more at schools and at home. That also means there’s more advice and opinions on the topic, which can lead to information overload. With that said, here’s a list of organizations who are here to support you in your digital parenting journey: 

  • The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI): FOSI works to ensure that children and their families have safer experiences online, through enlightened public policy, Good Digital Parenting, and industry best practices. 
  • The Digital Wellness Lab: The Digital Wellness Lab is a nonprofit research center seeking to understand and promote positive and healthy digital media experiences for young people, from birth through young adulthood.
  • Crisis Text Line: Crisis Text Line provides free, 24/7, high-quality text-based mental health support and crisis intervention by empowering a community of trained volunteers to support people in their moments of need.
  • AAP’s Center of Excellence on Social Media and Youth Mental Health: This National Center of Excellence on Social Media and Youth Mental Health serves as a centralized, trusted source for evidence-based education and technical assistance to support the mental health of children and adolescents as they navigate social media.
  • Children and Screens: Children and Screens addresses today’s most compelling questions about media’s impact on child development. Through interdisciplinary dialogue, research and information sharing. 
  • LGBT Tech: LGBT Tech is working to bridge the technology gap for all LGBTQ+ individuals. The Institute works with individuals and communities and engages in research, education, volunteerism, and partnerships to provide cutting-edge technology and resources to improve the lives of LGBTQ individuals, especially those that are disadvantaged.

…and many more! 

Our current online safety landscape felt particularly overwhelming, and exciting, this National Internet Safety Month. Together, by following the tips above and more, we can make the online world safer for all. 

Written by

Alanna Powers

Alanna is the Research & Program Specialist for the Family Online Safety Institute. She leads FOSI's Good Digital Parenting programming and research projects, and supports FOSI's communications efforts. Her prior experiences focused on both media and education. Alanna has taught English and communications courses at both the high school and college level, and concentrated on the subject of media literacy education during her master’s program.

Alanna has a master’s degree in media studies from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She also holds undergraduate degrees in both Public Relations and English from Penn State University, and is a Fulbright alumna.