Start the conversation
Talking to your children about using technology responsibly can be difficult especially when time is scarce and they are confident they know more than you do. Here are some ideas to get the conversation started
- Just ask: It sounds obvious by just asking your child how he/she uses mobiles and other devices is the first step. You might be surprised to find out what they actually do.
- Encourage: Show a positive interest and be supportive – avoid appearing as though you’re checking up on him/her!
- Ask them for help: Ask them for help: Young people love to share what they know. Get your child to explain how something works on your device such as downloading apps or purchasing something in an app.
- Test their ad sense: Advertising online is not always obvious like it is on TV. Make sure your child can spot ads and other ways companies get you to sign up to things.
- See for yourself: Try to play at least once the games your child enjoys. It’s good to do this when they first get it, to see if it’s likely to be unsuitable or lead to unwanted charges.
- Set Limits: Remember it’s just as important to set rules and boundaries for online behaviour as it is for offline. Talk to other parents to see what is reasonable. You may find it appropriate for example to ask to check apps before your child downloads any.
Put parental controls in place
Parental controls can never provide a complete safeguard, but they are an additional tool to complement talking to your child.
For calls and texts to premium rate numbers from your phone, check with your network (link) about which numbers they will restrict. You may want also ask about stopping text services that the network itself provides, as these can sometimes cost money.
Increasingly apps are making more money by being free to download but then charging for upgrades and purchases once the app is in use. Even if you don’t have any card details registered on an app store, these purchases can be made by charging to your phone bill instead.
On an Android phone or tablet, apps are downloaded in the The Google Play Store. On the device, visit the Google Play store app and under the app 'settings menu' you can select the option under 'User Controls' to restrict purchases with your Google password. You also have to enter the password in order to disable this, so keep your password to yourself.
Phones running on Google’s Android system, may not be manufactured by Google. The manufacturer may have additional restriction settings.
To find the ‘Restrictions’ menu on your iPhone, go to ‘Settings’ and then select ‘General.’ Tap on ‘Enable Restrictions’. You will then be able to set a password. This will provide you with a range of restrictions for Apple apps and content filters. By scrolling down you can also restrict ‘In-App Purchases’ by switching this to ‘off.’ Note: if you make an in-app purchase on your iPhone by entering the password, you will be able to do so without the password for at least another 15 minutes. Bear this in mind if you allow a purchase for your child and then hand the phone back to them.
Devices using new versions of Windows have a feature called 'Kids Corner' which you can find by selecting either “Start” or “Settings”. Find out more about setting up and using Kids Corner here.
One idea, if giving your phone to your child is to switch it to Airplane mode. That way, they can play on games already downloaded to your phone, but it cannot be connected to the internet or a network. The downside is that people trying to call you won’t be able to get through.
Don’t forget, your phone network is not the only company involved. There is also the phone manufacturer, and the company who make the system (such as iOS, Android or Windows) which may be different from the manufacturer. Each of these may have their own set of features in place to restrict payments, so it’s worth checking with them.
Worried about them seeing inappropriate content?
You can also put filters in place with both your broadband provider and your mobile network to filter the type of content your child can view online. Childnet International offers some advice on content filters for parents.