Ready to play
Once the devices are out of the box, how do you set them up to keep bills down and help your kids stay safe online? We'll explain all.
You know what tech gifts you're buying for the family – or you may have even bought them already. But if that new phone or tablet is a present for your child, or likely to be used by a young family member, how will you make sure they know how to stay safe and don't run up bigger bills than you intended?
You may have considered the costs of calls, texts and going online, but what about apps? Extra features, such as access to new levels in games or additional emoji icons in chat apps, may cost extra and are known as in-app purchases. If your debit card details are saved to an app store, your card can be charged immediately. Alternatively, payment may come straight off a child's Pay As You Go credit or appear on their next monthly bill.
- What can you do?
Ensure the apps your kids want to use are appropriate for their age. Go toNet Awarefor reviews, including age suitability. Read the app permissions before you download anything. And go to a trusted app store, such as Google Play or iTunes.
- Parental controls
Once the app is downloaded, check privacy settings. Depending on your child's age, think about setting up some controls. You might want to turn off the location settings, as this lets your device track where you are. It could tell others about your child's whereabouts. If you're sharing your device, especially with a younger child, set up a password that must be entered every time an in-app purchase is made. You may prefer to turn purchases off altogether. Of course, in-app purchases are not the only way you could end up paying for extras. Read our extra charges article to make sure costs don't ruin the fun.
- Get set up
On Android devices To prevent accidental in-app purchases, open Google Play and find Settings in the main menu. Under User controls, select Require authentication for purchases. To turn off location, open your device's settings, choose Location and tap to switch it off. On an iPhone or iPad Go to Settings and select General. Tap on Restrictions and set a password to restrict certain app features. Scroll down and swipe In-App Purchases to off. To turn off location, go back to Settings, tap Privacy and turn off Location services.
- Apps for different ages
There are lots of apps available for children of all ages. Take a look at what to expect from your kids and how to deal with it.
- Age 4 and under
Tablets are a great way to spend family time together. Play alongside little ones with their favourite characters from CBeebies, sing along to The Wheels on the Bus, or test their memory and counting skills with flashcard games. However, be aware that even apps for toddlers, such as Peppa Pig, can come with in-app purchases.
- Age 5-7
Many children use tablets at school and some may have their own device. Gaming apps can be a great way to encourage learning but be aware that some, such as Bearville, come with chat features too. Make sure your child is only playing with friends, and check privacy and permissions settings.
- Age 8-11
Kids may own their own phone, but won't fully understand the risks. Social networks such as Facebook or Twitter should be off the table for now, but your children could still interact with people they don't know through games and other apps. Messaging app Roo Kids can help here – you'll be alerted when your child adds a new contact and you can set a curfew preventing live chat at certain times.
- Age 12-15
Social networks like Facebook help older children navigate growing up and friendships. Take an interest in what they're doing, but also set some boundaries. Privacy settings on chat apps, such as ooVoo, are set to public by default, but can be changed if you only want your child to talk to friends. Talk openly about who they chat to, and what's safe to share.
Chat to them about what they've been doing in the game and who they've been talking to – just as you would in real life.
- Age 16+
Young people need freedom to explore. Help them do it safely. They may be interested in dating apps such as MyLOL. Respect their need for privacy and independence, but encourage them to talk regularly about their life online, just as they would about everyday friendships and relationships.