Family Smart TVs

Buying tips for parents

Although you can still watch television via an aerial, this is becoming less common. Most modern TVs provide the ability to stream programmes over the Internet.

Smart TVs and related streaming devices can actually enable you to take better control of your children’s viewing. Rather than just watching what happens to be broadcast, you can plan when and what to watch. They also offer an excellent way to share pictures and home movies with each other.


Expert Parent Tips For Buying a Device

Here are the things to consider before buying a Smart TV for your family.

Reviewing parental controls

Like computers, all connected televisions have the ability to restrict access to apps or internet browsing. The instructions will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so make sure you check the manual if you need to set them up. In particular, look for devices that offer a PIN to restrict access when you need to.

Depending on the service, you can set up different user accounts and use PINs to prevent children from downloading pay-as-you-go content or accessing adult content.

Check what apps are available

Apps can also be downloaded and used on Smart TVs like you would a smartphone, such as the free BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, and Demand 5. There are also likely to be a collection of apps for subscription services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Now TV. You will need to pay them a subscription fee individually to use them and ensure you have adjusted the settings to make sure your children can’t view explicit content.

These apps can sometimes extend beyond viewing or reading content and offer gaming experiences. While it’s important to check the PEGI rating on these games, they are often an excellent way to play together with your children. You can often connect a controller to extend the fun to more people.

Connecting to the internet

Almost all modern flat-panel TVs offer built-in Wi-Fi and wired connections to access the internet and your home network. However, it’s recommended that you connect them through the wired (ethernet) connection to get the most stable and fastest connection.

Be aware of content

Check out the channels offered for children through the different pay TV and online streaming services available to make sure you’re going to get the children’s content you expect.

It’s also important to identify which services you already subscribe to. This enables you to avoid duplication as well as access all your content in one place. There are helpful apps like Just Watch that let you search all your services for particular programmes your child would like to watch.

Recent TVs often have a frame replacement feature that aims to smooth out online viewing and make sports events look better. However, this often causes movies to look like they were shot on high-speed video rather than film — sometimes called the soap opera effect. You can find the setting in the Display section called either Frame Replacement or Motion Smoothing, and switch it off, as it is usually on by default.

It’s also worth noting that parents should spend time identifying the content they want children to benefit from. This guide to some tools can help you achieve this more easily.

Browsing the internet

Most Smart TVs offer internet browsers and, while connected to your home broadband, will apply any parental control filters you have set to prevent your children from seeing anything inappropriate. This can also be a useful way to access school resources and complete homework, although not many TVs will allow you to connect keyboard and mouse.

They also enable children to watch YouTube either in the browser or dedicated application. It’s import to extend any limits on content to your TV browser as well as home computer. Services such as Circle from Disney enable you to set this once for all your devices and can save a considerable amount of time.

Televisions to consider for your family

Here are some reviews of selected television manufacturers based on the operating systems they use with pointers on their level of functionality and the safety features they offer.

Apple TV

Great for the whole family, with access to a wide selection of apps, games and videos.

This new version of Apple TV is a great 4K device that gives you access to loads of videos and apps that should suit family members of all ages.

However, there are plenty of apps to entertain and games suitable for all ages including right down to the inbetweenies level (2-5-year-olds).

Parental controls don’t quite match the level of detail now available in the iOS Screen Time app, but you can still control the apps and types of content that can be accessed. It’s also certainly worth turning off in-app purchases too; it’s not off by default and with a new interface to learn, it can be a lot easier to buy extras without even realising it.

The Apple TV also lets you stream content from your iPhone or iPad to the big screen in the living room that can be a really nice way to share videos with the family. You can also use the Photos app to create slideshows of family pictures.

Available from £169. This also includes 3 months free subscription to Apple TV + content.

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Samsung Smart TV

Innovative features that make the smart TV an integrated part of family life.

Samsung Smart TVs combine a range of clever features. These include practical considerations like the single cable and one connect box that handles all of your connections and keeps the mess out the way. But there are also technical innovations as well, from the Premium One remote to the Universal smart guide.

This year’s Smart 4K Ultra HD TV is a good example of these Samsung sets. Along with high picture quality, it’s also a unit that doesn’t feel intrusive on the wall. Parents will also appreciate the One Near-Invisible Cable that does away with the usual mess of wires behind a television. Finally, the Premium One Remote Control enables you to control a range of compatible devices and avoid having multiple remotes on the go.

The Universal Guide is helpful if you have multiple streaming subscriptions as it consolidates all your available content in one searchable list. Along with the inclusion of notifications from other devices and simple content sharing, the set can be configured with a related mobile app. For families, this can make all the difference.

Visit our Samsung TV parental control guide.

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Amazon Fire TV

Offers access to movies and TV shows through Amazon’s streaming services.

As well as offering access to movies and TV shows through Amazon’s own and other streaming services, the Fire TV is also a capable games console for the family as it provides access to plenty of downloadable apps.

If your family is not concerned with more expensive consoles and software, it provides a fun and simple way to play games. They are also a lot cheaper than conventional games, as they are, in many cases, exactly the same as the games you can get for smartphones and tablets.

You can also limit the Fire TV to only allow age-appropriate games and video content to be available by setting a parental PIN code. That way adults can watch and play what they like, but children can only play age-appropriate content.

Available from as little as £29.99 for an entry level Fire TV Stick. The 4K version will cost around £54.99.

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Nvidia Shield Android TV

All-around entertainment device.

The Nvidia Shield Android TV box is made by a company more associated with games, so it offers a bit more and is possibly aimed more at teenagers than Amazon’s equivalent.

It uses Android TV as the user interface, so you can access the Google Play app store and other movie and TV show streaming services.

Its gaming features are more advanced than many rivals and it includes Nvidia’s own GeForce Now cloud gaming platform. This provides access to more than 50 games for a one-off monthly fee of £7.49 (first three months are free). It also comes with its own games controller in the box so no need to buy it separately.

One warning is that several of the games on the platform are rated for older children, even adults-only, but parental controls can be set to limit them by age category

Available from £129.99.

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Philips and Sony TV’s

A familiar system for Android users, complete with Android apps.

Both Sony and Philips have chosen the latest version of Android to run their television platforms. This not only provides a more familiar system for people used to Android smartphones and tablets, but many of the applications bought for mobile devices can be downloaded on the TVs too through the same Google Play account you might use already. If you’ve previously bought music or video content from Google Play, it can immediately be played on the TV through pre-installed applications.

The same level of protection for child access is available on Android TV platforms as on phones. And as many Android games work on the TV version of the system, you’ll be able to ensure only those rated as age-appropriate for your child are available to play without a PIN code or password. The same is true for internet browsing through the built-in Chrome browser.

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LG: webOS

Useful set-up assistant to help those with less tech proficiency.

Unlike the others, LG’s webOS TV system has been available on some of the more premium flat-screen TVs from the manufacturer for over a year. Even some own-branded TVs from John Lewis adopt the same Smart TV platform as they are built by LG for the high street store.

Like Samsung’s Tizen TV, webOS presents different options and areas through a tile interface running along the bottom of the screen when called up. However, LG’s system is the only one that comes with ‘Bean Bird’, a cute character that helps you set up your television, so you don’t need to be too technologically proficient.

As with all of the platforms covered, webOS has plenty of the most common applications and access to streaming services, and all content can be protected through parental controls. If ‘Bean Bird’ hasn’t already helped you set them up originally, you should check the manual for further instructions on how to turn them on.

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Supporting resources and guides