Keeping TVs and videogames out of the bedroom and firmly in shared spaces is a great step towards healthier media consumption for children, not least because you can keep an eye on the type of content your children are accessing. Mobile devices like tablets and smartphones can still put a spanner in the works, however.
Where you have children using this technology it's important to understand what they can and can't access, which is why we're giving you a few tips on what you should do and look out for when it comes to parental controls and supervision across phones, tablets, Xbox, PS4 and Nintendo Switch.
Password and PIN locks
Setting up password locks so kids need to ask before using mobile devices is a good place to start. This ensures you are aware of how much they are using them, and can have a conversation about what they plan to do in a particular session before you enter the unlock code.
From here there are two ways to limit access to content on devices, either setting restrictions on specific technology or to your home network in general.
On Apple products, like the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, the most important settings are labelled "Restrictions". This section is found in the "General" menu of the "Settings" app and enables you to specify which apps a particular device can access.
It can also control and restrict in-app purchases, location sharing, online games and access to the browser. This last item is important as it can offer a loop to content and interactions you may restrict in other applications.
The menu here also serves as an excellent timely reminder of just how much these devices can achieve, and the kinds of interactions possible.
On Android it’s a little more complex but it is worth spending time setting up different user profiles. In the "Settings" app select "Users" in the "Device" menu and then Add user or profile. This then enables you to select "Restrict profile" on the item just created and set a lock password.
Select the "Settings" item and then specify which apps the user can access. This enables you to control in-app purchasing, sharing and access to content that is not appropriate for younger users in the home.
Don't forget the games consoles
Along with tablets and smartphones you should also setup similar restrictions on game consoles. Modern gaming tech enables a wide range of interactions and access to varying maturity of content.
Each of the new consoles - PS4 and Xbox One - has a "Parental Controls" section that can specify what the current user can access in terms of content and interactions with other players online. These devices also include a web browser which should be restricted in the same way. Internet Matters has a good overview of these settings which vary from console to console.
At this time of year it’s also worth getting technology presents set-up ahead of Christmas Day to ensure they are ready to go and have all your usual restrictions applied. That means opening the box for games consoles, setting them up and re-packaging them before they go under the tree.
Ensure your broadband settings are correct
An alternative approach to controlling content in the home is to set-up restrictions on your broadband connection. Each of the main providers, be that BT, Sky, TalkTalk or Virgin Media offers a range of ways to help parents.
Whether this is the My Extras section for BT customers, Sky’s Broadband Shield, TalkTalk’s Home Safe options or the Child Safe features of Virgin Media, you can use these settings for piece of mind about what content comes into your home.
The details of setting these up vary from provider to provider, but again Internet Matters has a good overview of how this works and the best way to set it up.
Peace of mind
These are all useful tools for families to take control of the content coming into the home, and the interactions and information leaving it. More importantly they offer parents and children a way in which to discuss how they want to use connected technology in the home and what is appropriate for their family.
Either way, communicating about the opportunities and potential drawbacks of tablets and smartphones is a great way to ensure you have a positive experience. Certainly, with the simple controls offered by the likes of iOS for iPhone and iPad, it’s never been easier to take control of your christmas tech gifts.