Staying safe online this Christmas

16 Dec 2019 Becca Cawthorne

Christmas is fast approaching, schools are getting ready for nativities and discos, parents and carers across the country are getting ready for the two week break and of course, young people are getting ready for the new toys to play with.

With technology gifts being high on wish lists each year it is important to ensure that you and your children are safe when playing with new devices. To help you over the holidays, we’ve set out a few top tips to help keep your household safe online.

Buying technology as gifts?

Learn your way around

Most devices have controls to ensure that children can’t access content you don’t want them to. These include settings for online searching, “in-app” purchases,  as well as screen time allowances. Once you hand over devices on Christmas morning it can be hard to get them back, so it’s great to have a go on any devices you buy before handing over on the morning of the 25th! This allows you to set up any restrictions in advance and learn your way around any settings and functionalities in case your child comes to you for help!

Setting-up your tablets in advance

Tablets are really popular with younger children and there are a wide range to choose from, including child-friendly and educational models. When it comes to setting up and using tablets, why not start slowly? Download games and apps you have checked out carefully. Sites such as Net Aware or Common Sense Media provide useful advice.

For mobile phones

If you have older children and are thinking about getting them a new phone for Christmas, this can pose different challenges. The warnings are evolving, having your home computer in a communal place doesn’t easily apply to this modern technology. If you think about it – phones are literally mobile computers and have the power of most traditional desktop PCs.

Top tips for phones or tablets over the holidays

  • Set boundaries
    Our advice is to set some ground rules, and ensure they understand them. For example:
  • Apply Screen Time Limits
    Agree a time limit or number of games beforehand, to avoid repeated disagreements around how long they can spend online.
  • Sleep comes first
    We advise that phones or tablets stay out of the bedroom overnight to charge. This avoids those night time distractions.
  • Ask for access 
    If you’re concerned about something happening or want to take a look at the games and apps they are on, ask them to allow you access to the phone.
  • Monitoring vs having a conversation
    It is possible to install software onto devices that monitors online activity on devices. This type of software is becoming increasingly popular, but while this might sound tempting, it does pose a number of issues around your child’s right to privacy. Instead why not have a conversation about the types of things they are doing online, and create a family agreement to set out expected behaviour.

The best advice we can give is to talk to your child regularly and openly about behaviour and risk, so that they know they can come to you if something goes wrong.

Parental controls over the holiday

As young people will be spending more time online over the holidays, why not consider setting up parental controls on your Wi-Fi? You can block access to inappropriate or adult content and set time limits which may help rein in those excessive Fortnite sessions. For advice on how to do this, Internet Matters have a great guide on setting up parental controls.

Deciding about gaming

Each year there are so many exciting games and consoles around, there is a good chance you might have one coming into your house.

There are a few different ways to make a judgement about the types of games that are right for your child – but research is key. Downloading and using the game or app yourself is a great idea to experience first-hand what your child may be exposed to. Understandably for some parents, this can seem a little intimidating but it will also mean you’re well placed to support your child if you go on to let them use it too.

Alternatively, you can go to NetAware or Common Sense Media  for more information. We have also put together specific guidance on how to decide and mange which games your child is allowed to play.

Setting New Year’s resolutions

New Year is a great time to make some new resolutions around technology use. From taking a look at your account settings and cleaning up friends lists to getting involved in Safer Internet Day, why not resolve to make the online world a little kinder in 2020?

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