How to ensure gadgets are safe for children this Christmas

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Ghislaine Bombusa, head of digital for Internet Matters, a not for profit organisation set up to improve children’s safety online, shares tips for parents to ensure their children can enjoy their new gadgets safely.

Children across the country will unwrap a vast range of electronic gifts this Christmas – raising safety concerns for parents. Smartphones, gaming consoles and smart speakers may well be under the tree this year, but what can parents do to keep their kids safe? 

Smartphones and tablets

New iPhone
(Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

“If you’re going to give any device generally speaking, try to set it up before you wrap it up,” Ms Bombusa warned.

Where smartphones are concerned, make use of app store settings so that young people can only download apps suitable for them.

Both iOS and Android offer a range of restrictions, which can lock down purchases from the app store and prevent explicit content.

Children are likely to use YouTube, which can play host to some content more appropriate for adults. Enabling the website’s restricted mode helps to prevent children from accessing these videos.

“The other thing you can possibly do is download some of the apps that you want them to use, so they’re ready to go on the phone as you hand it to them,” Ms Bombusa suggested.

It is also advisable to go through the device and switch off location services, as older children may be unintentionally sharing their location on social media apps.

Gaming consoles

Consoles
(Joe Giddens/PA)

Gaming consoles feature parental controls, which allow parents to limit what children can do on devices such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Screen time settings allow grown-ups to decide specific times a child is allowed to play their console and how long for.

Similar to smartphones, parents can also set spending limits to stop or restrict how much children buy in the game stores.

Laptops

Laptop
(Peter Byrne/PA)

If a child is getting a laptop this Christmas, it’s advised to set up a child account while an adult remains administrator, meaning parents have control over what they can download and access.

Internet service providers offer broadband protection directly from the router, meaning inappropriate content and malware-infected websites are automatically filtered out as an added safety net, not just for laptops but all devices.

Smart speakers

Amazon
(Amazon/PA)

Smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home include protections against the ability to buy products, and that can help block any inappropriate content, such as music with expletives.

Many of these controls can be found within the accompanying app used to set up the device or from the device maker’s website.

Most importantly, Internet Matters recommends having regular conversations with children about how they use their gadgets.

Chris Price