03 December 2020

How to set up your child’s first device safely

Phone-online safety advice- Net Aware_sml

Whether it’s a laptop, phone, tablet, games console or another device that connects to the online world, there is a lot you can do to make sure it’s set up safely for your child.

Follow our checklist to help you set up your child's device

Spending time exploring your child’s device before you give it to them is a good way to ensure it gets set up safely and is ready for them to use when they unwrap it. It will also give you a chance to familiarise yourself with the different settings and help you feel more confident giving them tips around how to stay safe when using it.

Setting up parental controls is an easy way to help keep your child safe on their new device. Parental controls can help you:

  • Set up child-friendly browsers
  • Manage screen time
  • Block upsetting or inappropriate content
  • Limit in-app purchases
  • Manage which apps children can download

Most tech manufacturers have specific pages set up for parents and carers to help them explore the different ways they can keep their child safe online. Here are some links you might want to check out:

Apple’s family hub
Google’s advice hub
Xbox family settings
Nintendo parental controls

All mobile providers offer free parental controls to help limit what a child can see on their device. If you didn’t when you purchased it, make sure to contact them and ask for adult filters to be turned on as these aren’t always set up automatically.

You could also book an appointment with an O2 Guru to get free tips and tricks, and help with your device.

This might seem obvious, but a lot of us forget to read the manual when we get a device. It can be useful to check the guidance given by the manufacturers. Product information often comes with new devices or can be found online. This will give you some idea as to how to set up the device if you’re stuck and how it collects and shares data.

If location sharing is switched on it might make it easier for a child to broadcast their location on an app or game.

We would recommend making sure location sharing is ‘off’ on every device and app or game your child uses, this will help keep their personal details and location private. This can normally be found in device settings.

For ease on the day, you might want to download a selection of apps or games so they’re ready for your child to play on when they get the device. This way you can make sure they’re age-appropriate and set up any app-specific safety features.

When you download a new app or game most will require you to set up an account. Some, like Roblox, have different settings in place depending on your age so it’s important to make sure your child signs up with the correct date of birth.

Check out our reviews to help you decide whether the app is suitable for your child. Look out for things like age ratings and whether it has a chat function.

Remind your child to come to you if they want to download a new app or game or set up an account on a social media site.

And don’t forget to make sure you charge the device again once you’ve used it!

After you’ve given the device to your child find some time to sit down and look at the new piece of tech together.

Chat to them about the apps and games they’ve been playing on and talk them through some of the ways they can stay safe using them. We would recommend showing them:

  • How to report and block to get rid of any unwanted messages.
  • How to decline friend requests from people they don’t know.

This might also be a good opportunity for you to discuss any new apps or games they might want to download and check out our Net Aware reviews together.

When you’re looking at the device together, it might also be a good time to agree some rules for when and how they can use it. This might include things like what apps and games they can go on, how long for and who they can talk to.

For example, you might agree with them they can play games in the main family rooms at the weekends or that they can use a certain messaging app to talk to school friends.

Different rules will work for different families but often work best when agreed together. That way your child can share things like how long each games last which is helpful to know when agreeing time limits.

It will also help to open-up the conversation about keeping safe online and encourage your child to come to you in the future if they ever need advice or support.

Make sure to write down any new rules in our family agreement. This way you can come back to them in the future.

Being online is great place for kids to play, create, learn and connect but it can also bring about pressures or worries. You might want to talk to your child about the importance of taking breaks from certain apps and games if they ever feel overwhelmed spending time online. Check out our tips on how to support your child’s wellbeing online for more advice on this.

Childline has loads of useful information on their website which you might want to encourage your child to explore, including:

Feeling good on social media
Mobile phone safety
Online gaming
Worries about the world

Make sure your child knows they can come to you, another trusted adult of Childline counsellor if they feel worried about anything they see online.

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