4 tips for giving tech gifts this Christmas

23 Nov 2021 Becca Cawthorne

‘Tis the season… to go shopping… and whether it’s phones, tablets, consoles, or wearables, technology gifts continue to top the Christmas wish-lists of many children and young people. Black Friday is fast approaching (and for some retailers it’s already here), so we’ve created five top tips for parents and carers to consider before those devices, whether new or ‘new to you’, are unwrapped on December 25th.

1. Set up and play with the device before wrapping

The easiest way to explore the safety settings, reporting tools, and other features on the device you’ve just bought is by testing it yourself. If you can, charge it up and have a go navigating the safety tools, parental controls and resources provided.

This means that on Christmas morning, you have peace of mind knowing that your child is unwrapping a fully functioning device that you can readily assist them with whenever they need help. This process may be different per device, phone operating system, console network, or internet provider.

If you are not planning to open the gift before Christmas, ensure that filtering is applied to your home Wi-Fi and that you still set up the device before your child uses it.

You can read our advice about smartphones, gaming devices, tablets and other internet connected devices in our advice or parents and carers.

It’s important to remember that no filter is ever 100% effective on its own and talking to your child about what to do if they see something that worries or upsets them is key.

2. Discuss your expectations.

Creating a family agreement is a brilliant way to think about how your family uses the internet, to help make sure that everybody understands the importance of staying safe and being responsible online. It offers the opportunity for you to set out your expectations regarding technology use in the home, and for your children to let you know their feelings too, if they are old enough to actively participate in the discussion. Involving your children can give them a sense of ownership and responsibility, for the agreement that is made.

Points could include daily screentime allowances, where the device is kept at night, approving friend requests, and permission to download or purchase apps. Take a look at our free family agreement template to produce something that works for you and your family.

If you already have a family agreement, it’s advantageous to keep updating this as your family’s internet use changes and new devices can come into the household.

3. Give practical safety tips

One of the most important things you can do, before giving technology to your child, is talk to them about it. Having a conversation demonstrates that you are engaged and interested in their online lives and shows you are always available to help them should they need it.

Whilst we recommend that parental controls are activated, they are never one hundred percent guaranteed. Your child might also find themselves in a location with unfiltered Wi-Fi, and so knowledge is the best tool they can have.

Giving practical tips for dealing with unwanted content or contact is helpful and can be done as soon as your children start using technology. At the most basic level this could be; “turn the screen off,” or, “turn the device over,” and, “come and get an adult.” If your child is more independent online it could be a case of showing how to take a screenshot, or ensuring they know where to find the blocking and reporting options on each service they are using.

Reassuring your child that they can always come to you, or another trusted adult, to ask for help – in any situation and without judgement, is essential. Whatever it is that your child needs help with, try to remain calm. The way you respond will have an impact on your child’s experience and may influence how they feel about asking for help in the future.

4. Keep the conversations going!

Finding natural, regular opportunities to start conversations around life online, will show you are engaged and interested in your child’s activities, and will help your child feel confident that you can help them.

Conversation starters to facilitate these discussions could include:

  • What do you like best about this app or game?
  • Can you teach me how to play this game?
  • What tips can you give me about spending time online?
  • What is okay or not okay to share online?
  • How would you help a friend if they were worried about something online?

Resources to help you:

Childnet Key Topics for Parents

From social media and gaming to digital wellbeing and healthy balance, our key topics give information and advice on issues affecting young people online.

Online Issues and social media guides on UKSIC

These are easy to read, quick pieces of guidance on key issues such as bullying and challenges online.

Keeping Under-Fives Safe Online

This resource gives top tips to put in place at home to help keep young children safe online

Common Sense Media

 Reviews from parents, young people and experts looking at all the latest games, apps, services and films to help you decide if something is appropriate for your child

Ask About Games

A site providing advice on how to play games safely and responsibly and offering families helpful tips to ensure they get the most out of the games they enjoy together.

This article was originally posted on childnet.com