Setting up tech safely
Advice for Parents & Carers
Learn what settings you can use on devices to manage your child’s online experience.
As children with vulnerabilities are at a higher risk online, it’s important to make full use of the range of techniques available to help children stay happy and healthy online.
There are a sometimes overwhelming array of settings and features that can be used to help you create an environment that minimises the risks your child may encounter online, and whilst they should never be considered to be the only solution, they do give parents greater visibility and control, allowing them to step in and support their child when needed.
As a parent of a child with additional needs, having greater visibility and supervision can be extremely helpful both to reassure you your child is doing fine, but also when things run the risk of going wrong, to give you an opportunity to intervene earlier and to create learning moments with your child.
Devices children use to connect online
Whilst the most popular device for connecting online remains the smartphone, it’s important not to overlook the other devices your child might use to go online, particularly tablets, gaming consoles and laptops/PC’s. All these devices can be set up in a way that will support your child’s online experience.
Apple iOS Smartphones & Tablets
Smartphones and tablets typically fall into one of two kinds, either Apple, which uses its own iOS operating system or everybody else, like Samsung, LG, Google, etc, which use the Android operating system.
The screen time function on iOS allows you to set time limits and content and privacy settings by setting up a screen time passcode. It helps you to schedule time away from the screen, limits for types of apps that can be purchased or used, social networking is one group, and to set content & privacy restrictions. Here you can set up several useful features including:
- Age ratings for films, apps, music, TV and books
- Filters for website content
- Privacy settings for the Games Centre
There is a guide for how to use the Screen time feature here:
If you all your family devices are from Apple you could take advantage of setting up Family Sharing. As well as allowing you to share cloud storage and purchases, it lets you monitor your children’s screen time use, what websites they visit, and apps they use. It also lets you set time limits for specific apps and has a handy ‘Ask to buy’ feature. It also allows you to track device locations. You can find out more here:
iOS also has guided access which is a stand-alone way of controlling access to a single app for a set time, useful if you are sharing devices. You can find out more here
Android Smartphones & Tablets
Smartphones & tablets typically fall into one of two kinds, either Apple, which uses its own iOS operating system or everybody else, like Samsung, LG, Google, etc, which use the Android operating system.
Google Family Link
Google Family Link lets you supervise, and control access remotely and add filter and content restrictions to your child’s Android device. Importantly you can use a parent you can use either an Android or iOS handset. It will take some time to set up and involves each user having a Gmail account, and you providing your credit card details for verification, however once set up it will allow you to track their location, set controls and filters for the websites and apps used, and also set usage times and limits for specific apps on your child’s device. You can find a setup guide here:
Google Digital Wellbeing
Digital Wellbeing from Google can be downloaded from the app store and then appears in your settings, rather than as an app. It gives you access to a range of screen time data that lets you review the apps you use and the time spent on them. It also importantly includes the parental controls capability from Family Link. At the moment it is only available on Google phones and a handful of other Android phones, however, in October 2019, they made it a requirement for all Android phones to either have this app built-in or offer a similar service.
Google Play Store
You can control the apps your child can download from the app store by using the Settings in the actual PlayStore. You can find a helpful guide here:
As children grow older, gameplay whether it is on mobile or console, increasingly involves communicating with others, so it’s important that you make sure you also set up gaming consoles with this in mind. Each of the major platforms, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo all offer a raft of parental controls and privacy settings to tailor your child’s experience. You can find out more about how to do this here:
PlayStation Network and Xbox Live are subscription services that allow communication between players, so if your child is using these make sure you also think about how these are set up. And alongside these services, are platforms like Steam and Twitch where young games can interact. It’s important to think about these as social networks, particularly as the language and conduct on these platforms can sometimes be more aggressive and inappropriate. Again, you can find more information by clicking on the button above.
Laptops and PC’s are much like smartphone and tend to fall into two camps, Apple and Windows. The Apple MacOS Operating system offers very similar features to Family Sharing on the smartphone iOS.
Windows also offers built in parental controls and lets you set up a child account where you can also manage screen time, apply filters and restrictions and control spending at the Microsoft store. Again you can find more information here for Windows 10:
Controls on your home broadband and mobile networks
The most common home broadband networks all offer parental controls and filtering free of charge. This allows you to control the sites your child can access. Whilst they are helpful for preventing your child from stumbling across inappropriate content online, they only work on websites (not apps), don’t control at an individual level, and so for social media, they cannot block app access. You can find about more about parental controls here
The big mobile networks all offer protection for accidentally stumbling across inappropriate contact. But like the broadband networks, they operate on a website level (not on apps) and so for social media they cannot block app access. For more information on mobile networks:
Make use of both Google Safe Search and YouTube Restricted Mode. Safe Search on Google’s search engine stops anything that is considered 18+ appearing in the search results, and YouTube Restricted Mode filters out inappropriate adult style content from being played on YouTube, whilst this is less likely to be pornography (as this is against community standards) and more around adult themes and bad language. More information about these is available here: