Parents should take the time to set up safety features and parental controls on any new devices their kids are given for Christmas before wrapping up, said an online safety expert.
Child psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who is an ambassador for children’s online safety group Internet Matters, said creating new gadgets early could help parents ‘keep control’ of what children their children access.
Smartphones, laptops and other internet-connected devices should once again be popular gifts for kids this Christmas, but some parents struggle to figure out how to manage their security settings.
Internet Matters guidance suggests parents download any apps their children might use in advance so they are ready to use when delivered to them, and use the parental controls available for internet browsers and app stores to ensure that their children do not encounter inappropriate content.
The group also highlights key features such as screen time managers that can be used on mobile devices and game consoles to limit how long each day a child can use the device itself or individual apps and games.
“Applying Internet safety to children can seem overwhelming for parents, especially during the Christmas holidays, when children have plenty of time to play or use new digital devices they have received as gifts that parents may find difficult understand,” Dr. Papadopoulos said.
“The dos and don’ts of Internet safety can seem overwhelming, especially during the holiday season, when time seems to go by faster.
“With this in mind, setting up safety features out of the box will ensure you stay in control of what your kids can access and when, to give them a better experience right from the start.
“First, always find out what device, platform or apps your child is using.
“You can do this by using the device with them and asking them to show you how it works and what they do with it.
“Or you can search the Internet Matters website which has age-appropriate guides for ease.
“This is so you understand what your child is doing and what potential dangers are to watch out for.”
Dr. Papadopoulos also encouraged parents to talk to their children about internet safety in general to make it easier for young people to reach out to them if they have problems online.
“Talk to your child about their digital life this holiday season so they’ll feel comfortable coming to you if anything goes wrong,” she said.
“Talking to them from an early age makes it easier to maintain good communication. Make sure you have bite-sized conversations that are relevant to them.
“Choose to talk when you need to spend time together, like over a meal or during your bedtime routine. Bring the digital experience into normal daily conversations.
“Model the behavior you want them to display by sharing your day. Be open and encouraging to make them feel supported.”
A range of online guides and resources are available on the Internet Matters website www.internetmatters.org.