New devices for Christmas

08 Dec 2015 UK SIC

This Christmas, many children will be asking their parents for tablets, games consoles and smartphones.  

As the Ofcom’s Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report 2015 revealed the number of children using a tablet has risen to over half (53%) of 3-4s, from 39% in 2014, and 75% of 5-15s, up from 64% in 2014.  Childnet and PhonepayPlus’s report, Young people’s experiences with in-app purchases, found that smartphones are the most popular device among 11-18s, with 82% saying that they used a smartphone on a weekly basis.

With more children than ever before using internet-enabled devices, parents are expressing concerns about the collection and use of children’s personal information; with the Ofcom report showing that one in five (21%) parents are concerned about their child feeling pressured to make in-game purchases whilst playing online games.

The report from Childnet and PhonepayPlus found that a significant minority of young people, 12% of 11-18’s, said they had accidentally spent money on in-app purchases however those who had did so because they thought it was free.  It is important then that young people understand what in-app purchases are and, when getting new devices this Christmas, are given the right information and tools to avoid running up high costs. 

To help, we’ve put together some advice for parents:

  • Ask the right questions. Use the shopper’s checklist from the UK Safer Internet Centre to help you ask the right questions when buying technology this Christmas.  Topics include apps, communication and costs.  
  • Set up parental controls. Most devices will have parental control tools that can help you, for example by preventing in-app purchases so you don’t get any shock bills. You can see more detailed guidance about how to set up parental controls at the UK Safer Internet Centre website:
  • Have a conversation. Chat to your children about in-app purchases and other costs that can be incurred when using a device and encourage them to ‘think before you click’. It can be helpful to agree spending limits and make sure they know they can turn to you for advice or if they accidentally make a purchase.  Use the conversation starters from the UK Safer Internet Centre to talk to your child about staying safe online on an ongoing basis. 
  • Enjoy the technology together. Make sure you know what functions the device has perhaps they can show you their favourite app, or you can play a game together? It may be helpful to be involved when your child downloads an app, so you can review whether it is paid-for or if it has in-app purchases. By staying engaged you can also be there to remind them about the importance of staying safe, and they’ll know they can turn to you if anything worries them.

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