Have you noticed that children seem to have an innate ability to use and navigate iPads, game consoles and other techy devices? In a world where technology is expanding (and fast), it’s important to create a safe space for your children to be online and educate them from a young age on the importance of online safety.
We’ve shared our tips on how to set up parental controls and explicit filters across your devices to keep your children safe online, no matter their age, ability or the device they’re on.
There is a whole world of content available online, and even with parental controls and explicit filters in place, there’s a lot that children can be exposed to that may fall outside of what you consider appropriate.
When deciding what content and usage is appropriate for your child, it’s important to consider factors such as their age and ability, as well as your beliefs and family values. What works for one family may not work for another.
Where younger children are involved, you’ll likely have a clear idea of what you want your children to have access to, and you may not need to have a conversation with them about internet safety or discuss why it’s important. However, with older children, it’s important to have appropriate conversations about internet safety and why it’s important to be safe online.
This conversation will likely change as your children grow up and enter their teenage years. As children get older and become teenagers, they can be exposed to and potentially experience cyberbullying, stumble upon upsetting content such as violence and self harm, and witness sexual content.
If your child does come across something that has upset or confused them, it’s important to facilitate an open and non-judgemental environment to discuss how this makes them feel and advise on how they can avoid it in future. Talking to your teenager about the risks involved in seeking out some of this content can be beneficial in protecting their mental health and encouraging positive morals.
It’s no secret that technology hasn’t always been thought of fondly when it comes to children’s development, as it’s been linked to social, physical and psychological issues such as decreased creativity and imagination skills, higher BMI and technology addiction. However, when exposed to the right content and games, and with the right usage, technology can provide hours of learning and development.
Parents and caregivers alike often struggle to strike the right balance between beneficial screen time and tech reliance, which can lead to difficulties focusing,
Educational games and apps can encourage children to learn independently, which in turn helps to develop their self-confidence. This skill can help them later in life with learning in the classroom, completing their homework and even in their careers as adults.
Children of reading age or who are learning to read can also benefit from apps and games designed for their ability and age range. There are specific apps, such as the popular Khan Academy Kids which is a free education app targeted to children aged 2 – 5 years, that can help develop their reading, writing and language skills.
And in an ever-increasingly technological world, being introduced to technology early can develop technical skills at a young age, helping them come to grips with new technologies and software as they grow older which can shape their choices later in life.
We don’t shy away from technology in our nursery settings! Where appropriate, we give children the opportunity to use tablets and computers whilst under the supervision of our nursery staff.
In our Altrincham nursery for example, the children have access to tablets where they can take photos of themselves, their friends and the environment. The children do not have access to the internet on these tablets to ensure their safety at all times. And in some of our other settings, we allow the children to use the computers in reception. This use is supervised at all times.
We’ve also implemented tech that can help you see your children grow and develop during their time at nursery. Our nursery practitioners use the iConnect app on company-supplied tablets to share child observations with the parents. This can be viewed via the ParentZone app by logging into your own private account.
Everything we do regarding your child and tech is always managed by our Head Office IT Team and we never use work-supplied tablets for personal use or internet browsing. This means both your and your children’s private information is kept safe and secure.
According to a survey by Internet Matters, 1 in 5 parents don’t use parental controls because they’re too restrictive, and 1 in 10 parents don’t use them because they’re too complicated. On top of this, 13% of parents admit to not using parental controls as it restricts their own internet access and usage.
An Internet Matters Ambassador says it’s important for parents to set up age-appropriate parental controls on their children’s devices to ensure they have a safe space to be online, and that building online boundaries should be no different to any other life stage.
There’s no doubt that setting up filters and restrictions can help keep your children safe online no matter their age.
Parental controls allow you to restrict the content your child has access to by blocking and filtering out inappropriate and harmful content. It also gives you the ability to set when they can go online and how long for. For families with children of different ages, you can set individual rules for each family member.
You can set parental controls on the devices themselves, through your router or WiFi connection and via service and application settings. Each service, console or app will have different instructions for setting up parental control. For more information and guidance take a look at their websites.
Parental controls can also be called an explicit content filter, family features or be found under privacy or security settings.
As well as explicit filters and parental controls, many consoles and devices allow you to change the features that are available. This can include turning off online chat features which can prevent your children from talking to strangers online, and hiding games and apps that are outside of their age range.
You can also prevent your child from making in-app purchases, avoiding an unexpected bill if they were to get overly excited on a game or mistakenly spend without your consent!
Limiting screen time is an effective way to manage your child’s tech usage and encourages children to move on to a different activity (preferably away from a screen). Screen time limits are also a useful way to manage their device usage whilst outside of their usual environment.
If your child uses internet browsers such as Chrome, Safari and Microsoft Edge, they’ll likely be using search engines such as Yahoo, Google and Bing to search the internet. All search engines will give you the option to turn on “safe search” or explicit filtering, and all browsers will give you the option to set a “kids mode” or set up family management.
Again, check each website’s instructions on how to set this up.
For more information about how to keep children safe online, the NSPCC has a host of information available, as well as tips on how to have conversations with older children.
As children’s tech has become more accessible, children’s apps have become more advanced, more educational and more entertaining! A quick browse on the App Store or Google Play and you’ll see a myriad of games and tools available for you and your little one to explore and download.
Knowing which apps are parent-approved and appropriate for your child isn’t always easy. With concerns about apps’ legitimacy and safety, navigating the many games and apps can be daunting. Always do your research before allowing your child to use apps and play games independently.
Read reviews and consider downloading the app or game yourself before allowing your child to use it. Or use the app together for the first few times – this is a great time to bond and gives you an insight into how your child will use the app.
There are some very popular and well loved apps and games amongst parents and children alike. These include:
In summary, technology can be a beneficial tool used to help entertain and educate children of all ages but it’s important to manage your children’s use and to create a safe online environment for them to explore. Using parental controls and filtering explicit content is the best way to do this.
Joining in with your children’s tech use time can be a great way to bond with your child and can establish healthy tech use habits. Together you can explore new apps, videos and games and have an oversight on what your children are engaging with, giving you a better understanding of how to protect your little one whilst online.
Although technology has many benefits, such as developing reading and writing skills, giving them a new avenue to explore their creativity and helping them build skills that will help them throughout their life, it’s important to strike a balance. Spending time away from a screen is the best way to do this, like going outdoors or through messy or creative play.
It’s important to remember, it’s a personal choice should you decide to allow your child to use technology and you should never feel pressured to do it because everyone else is.