3 Safety Tips for Parents Buying Tech Gifts

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It’s that time of year again! Time to make your holiday shopping lists and find the best deals on gifts for friends and family. And if you’re shopping for kids and teens, there’s a good chance that a number of those gifts involve technology. From smartphones and tablets to gaming systems, kids and teens love devices that keep them connected.

As fun as these devices are, they carry hidden dangers, such as potential exposure to pornography, sexting, and cyberbullying. So, before you hit the stores on Black Friday, gift yourself peace of mind by putting healthy guardrails around the technology you give your kids this holiday season.

Don’t know where to start? Put these three tips on your checklist:

1. Educate Yourself on Each Device’s Capabilities

Half the internet safety battle is understanding the particular risks involved with each of your children’s devices. Ask yourself these three questions. The answers will help you determine which safeguards you need:

  • How does this device connect to the internet?
  • How does this device give access to content on the internet?
  •  How does this device enable communication?

The first question helps define where safeguards should be implemented—at the level of your home network, or at the level of individual devices. For instance, a smartphone accesses the internet over multiple WiFi networks and LTE data. This means that safeguards at the level of your home network won’t be enough, and that safeguards need to be in place on the device itself.

The second question helps define which measures need to be taken to make sure a device is safe. For example, one issue we encounter frequently is that parents rarely understand the web browsing capabilities of gaming systems. The Xbox, PlayStation, and even portable gaming systems like Nintendo’s 3DS all contain web browsers, which can provide access to inappropriate content. With gaming systems, then, it might be a good idea to implement content filtering on your home network.

The third question helps clarify when monitoring solutions need to be implemented for the sake of preventing activities such as cyberbullying and sexting. Content filters aren’t often enough to block inappropriate communications over texting or social media, so other measures need to be taken if a device enables communication over these channels.

2. Set Native Parental Controls

A necessary first step you can take toward protecting your children is to find and configure the native parental controls on their devices.

This is fairly intuitive on most smartphones and tablets. On an iOS device, for instance, parents can go to Settings, select General, and then choose Restrictions. Allowing restrictions (which requires parents to set up a 4-digit passcode so that only they can make changes) gives parents the ability to choose which apps and features of the phone are permissible to use, and to restrict content by rating for movies, music, and podcasts.

Android phones allow similar restrictions, which you can review here. And most gaming systems also include some level of parental controls, which you can use to disable the device’s web browser, if you choose.

3. Create a Comprehensive Internet Safety Plan

While devices’ native parental controls are a necessary first step, most parents find that they need other technical safeguards, such as content filters and social media monitoring solutions, to fully protect their children from all the dangers out there. We strongly recommend creating a comprehensive internet safety plan, which combines technical safeguards with authentic communication, for your family.

If you’d like to hear more about how we help families create internet safety plans customized to their needs, give us a call, or drop us a line on our contact page.