*This is a commissioned post for Plusnet*
With Christmas on the horizon, there will be a veritable sack load of new tech devices due to be delivered by Father Christmas. With that being the case, it’s always worth reminding ourselves of the importance of setting up those new devices to be safe for our children online. This festive season, Plusnet have partnered with not-for-profit organisation Internet Matters to launch their Nice Device Quiz, aimed at helping parents who want to keep their children safe online but are unsure where to start.
The Nice Device quiz allows parents to test their knowledge about online safety by answering a set of 10 questions about the most popular online devices to make sure the new Christmas gifts they buy stay on the “nice list”. I’m not afraid to admit that despite our best efforts, and my thinking that I was pretty confident when it comes to internet safety, I actually got a couple of the questions wrong – so even if you think you’re on top of things, it’s definitely worth working through the quiz just in case! Once you’ve completed the quiz you will receive a personalised letter from Santa himself with some additional internet safety advice which can be given to your child along with the new device to make sure they are just as aware of staying safe online as you are!
As a parent and a primary school teacher, keeping my children safe online is a top priority. Years of child protection training at work have made me super cautious about what I allow my children access to and how we set up their devices. The ultimate aim is not to terrify ourselves or our children, but to educate ourselves on the risks and what we can do about them. Modelling best practice for our children is so important, we want them to understand the threats and eventually manage those risks for themselves.
All three of our children have their own tablet and they share an Xbox. These have all been set up expressly with their safety in mind – we don’t have the same safety controls in place on our own tablets or phones as our children never use them. However, if they did have access to these, we would ensure they had the same safety features in place – I think it can be easy to forget that children often have access to devices which weren’t initially set up with them in mind.
One of the most important things you can do to keep your child safe online is to keep the lines of communication open. Talk to them about what they should do if they see things they aren’t comfortable with or don’t think they should be seeing. That’s why the quiz is so great, you can use the letter written by Santa as child friendly way to start those conversations around safety.
It’s so important to make sure that children are educated about the need to keep their personal information safe, at its most basic level this might just mean using a nickname rather than their real name but it’s vital that they know not to share details which might identify them or their location.
Dave has set up the devices prior to them being given to the children to ensure maximum parental safety controls are used as well as adding in extra apps. Both Apple and Android devices have some great parental controls built into them, so these should be set up as a bare minimum. After that it’s about how far you want to control things. For us, because are children are still quite young, we use an additional password-controlled app which prevents them from accessing native apps we haven’t given permission for – this means they can’t access Chrome or use Google without us putting a password in first. The app also allows us to set up different profiles – so we have one for upstairs which only lets them use music apps, everything else is blocked unless they are downstairs where we can see them. Of course, as they get older and are more able to manage things, we will relax our controls.
We have parental controls set up within the app store which means apps cannot be downloaded without a password giving us the chance to check them out and approve them first – we research apps before downloading them and then keep an eye on them once they are being played with to ensure nothing untoward comes up. There have been several apps which we’ve removed again when we’ve discovered they are packed with ads, that the content isn’t appropriate or that they were able to communicate with other players. It’s important to keep a regular check on the apps your children are using and the websites they are accessing – we probably do this every few weeks at the same time as downloading any app updates for them.
We always make sure we use kid friendly versions of apps. This isn’t fool proof though, so you still need to keep an eye on things. We have a family subscription to Spotify and have taught Ben and Chloe to look for the “parental advisory explicit lyrics” badges and not listen to those songs.
Our Xbox isn’t currently set up for playing games online. Although Ben does like the idea of being able to play online with his friends, it’s something we are avoiding for now. it doesn’t feel necessary at the moment. In the future, when we do allow Ben access to Xbox Live we will pay careful attention to the communication settings to ensure he isn’t able to speak to or message people he doesn’t know. The Xbox is set up in the playroom, carefully positioned so that the screen is easily viewable by us at any time meaning we can see what is being played. When he shops for games, he knows to make age appropriate choices which Dave or I will have the final say on for him.
If you are unsure where to start when keeping your child safe online, as it can often feel overwhelming; The Nice Device Quiz is a great starting point. Incredibly easy to take– the quiz provides useful tips that can be implemented by parents.
I’d love to know how you get on with the Nice Device quiz and if you’ve got any top tips to share or questions about how we set up our tech devices, leave me a comment below!