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Making gadgets safe for children

mum and daughter using smartphone

Some advice on how to control what children can do on any smartphones, consoles or other electronic products they may have received as gifts at Christmas.

Children across the country would have unwrapped a vast range of electronic gifts this Christmas. Which is great but there are safety concerns for parents.

Ghislaine Bombusa is a head of digital for Internet Matters, a non-profit set up by the country’s leading internet service providers to improve children’s safety online. Here she shares tips for parents to ensure their children can enjoy their new gadgets safely.

Smartphones and tablets

New iPhone - making gadgets sdafe for children

(Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

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. These 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.” Ms Bombusa suggested.

It’s also advised 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 - making gadgets safe for children

(Joe Giddens/PA)

Gaming consoles feature parental controls. These 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 - making gadgets safe for children

(Peter Byrne/PA)

If a child received a laptop this Christmas, it’s advisable to set up a child account while an adult remains administrator. This means parents have control over what a child can download and access.

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

Smart speakers

Smart speakers such as Google Home include protections against the ability to buy products. They can also 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.

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