Games consoles, smart devices and how to keep your children safe
Playing video games is an activity which many children and adults enjoy, and can provide experiences that families can share. Many parents may feel assured that their children are not at risk of harm because they are at home enjoying playing games, but this may not necessarily be the case.
With the interconnectedness of video games systems, social media and other platforms today, children and young people may be exposed to numerous risks including:
• Trolling, griefing and scams
• Seeing age inappropriate content
• Privacy problems and personal information stored on machines
• Webcam hacking
• Online predators
• Hidden fees and online spending
• Social engineering intended on exploiting children and young people or exposing them to radicalised information
As a parent you may feel that you are not technically minded and don’t fully understand the dangers or how you can protect your children. Banning children from using technology may feel an effective way of preventing the problem, but this can put them at a disadvantage from an educational point of view and potentially socially isolate your child(ren) from their friends. However, there are simple steps you can take to help protect your child while using technology.
The top tips for keeping your children safe online
- Establish a positive relationship with them around their online life – talk to them regularly about what they are doing online and discuss their experiences
- Talk them about who they are talking to, do they know them in real life?
- Establish rules with them about what they can and cannot share online – talk to your child(ren) to think about what they are sharing and they are sharing information with
- Establish rules with them such as how long you child(ren) can use games consoles, PCs or other internet enabled devices. Make rules together about what they can and cannot do on devices and what webpages, games and media they can access.
- Explain the worries you might have about what they are doing or something you have read or heard about – most children will understand your concerns.
- Do your research, many games console manufacturers and game developers have specific pages to help parents understand the risks and have controls they can use to protect their child(ren)
- Make sure they know they can come to you or an identified trusted adult if they see something that upsets or worries them
- Have a family agreement about rules you are all comfortable with and agree to follow
- Set up parental controls on your devices (see below for where you can get help on this)
- Report any concerns you or your children have (see below for who to report your concerns to)
Privacy settings on any computer system are really important to help keep both you and your child(ren) safe and your personal information secure, and only available to the people you want to know it.
Privacy settings are controls available on many websites and apps (for example Facebook, WhatsApp, Xbox, PlayStation Network and others) to limit who can access your profile and what information visitors can see.
Details of how to use privacy settings are available from ThinkuUKnow:
The parental controls on internet connected devices will vary from system to system. As well as games consoles, many websites such as Roblox, Discord, Fortnite, and Twitch have their own parental controls you can access. InternetMatters.Org have an excellent collection of step by step guides to help parents set up parental controls for many platforms including:
- Ninetndo DS, 3DS, Wii, WiiU and Switch,
- Playstation 3, 4 and Vita
- Pokemon Go
- Xbox 360 and Xbox One
For more information visit:
- If you have the newer PlayStation 5 then you can visit the Sony Playstation website here
- If you have the newer Xbox Series S/X please visit the Microsoft website here.
To help you manage your children’s gaming activities on Windows and Xbox, Microsoft have also developed a mobile phone app for use on iOS and Android, please visit this site here for more information.
PCs by their very nature are much more diverse than games consoles. Windows is the most common operating system and comes with a variety of parental, privacy controls and anti-malware built in. For more information visit the Microsoft Support page here.
As well as the built in software you can also download other software to protect your PC and family from companies like McAfee, Norton and Kaspersky to name just a few.
To protect your children on their smartphones and other devices such as Amazon Echo, Sky Q and SONOS, etc, InternetMatters.Org have a number of useful guides which are available from:
The NSPCC have also produced a large range of resources dedicated to explaining the most popular games, apps and social media websites used by children and young people. For more information please visit:
Who can I contact?
If your child is in immediate danger call the police on 999.
If you child has suffered bullying online contact Childline on 0800 1111 or visit https://www.childline.org.uk/get-support/.
If someone has asked for nude photos of your child or your child have shared nude pictures of themselves, someone is asking to meeting face to face, someone is always talking to your child about sex and it made them feel uncomfortable or someone keeps trying to talk to your child privately you can contact the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency by visiting https://www.ceop.police.uk/ceop-reporting/.
If you believe a crime has been committed but notbody is in immediate danger contact the police on 111.
If you have any other safeguarding concerns, contact the Children and Families Service, see our “Worried about a child?” page.