It’s possible to let kids enjoy phones and game consoles without giving them unfettered access to its capabilities and online stores.Smartphones and video game consoles can be great devices for kids to learn and play with, but their internet-connected nature can make it difficult for parents to keep control over their use. From accessing inappropriate content to using the device too much to racking up huge unexpected bills, unsupervised use of these devices can cause serious issues.
Luckily, most modern devices have a range of options for parents to monitor or limit how their kids’ use their internet-connected devices, so if your child is getting a new phone or game console for Christmas this year, here’s what you need to know. Game consoles
On both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, parents should sign in and create an account for themselves first, and then make one for their kids (this is called a child account on Xbox, or a sub account on PlayStation). Though the systems work a little differently depending on which console you get, each allows the parent to decide what classification level is appropriate for each child, regulate their spending and limit their online activities.
As the holiday season approaches, Xbox Australia’s Jeremy Hinton says it’s important for parents to be prepared to walk through game console rules with kids from the moment the machine is unwrapped.
“There are a lot of consoles and devices that will be sitting under Christmas trees right now to be opened on Christmas day”, Hinton says. “And of course the kids will want to jump right in, but there really are a number of features that we think benefit the family considerably if they’re done right at that first stage”.
When you set up a child’s account, the console will ask you to set appropriate rules and restrictions, so going through this process with the kids present can set ground rules from the get go.
On most platforms, content such as games, movies and apps are classified using a mix of official Australian Classification Board ratings and those determined by an independent body. On Xbox, all content is rated by the ACB. Regardless of the platform, each child’s account can be set to an appropriate level, from G to R.
“What we really want is for parents to have a level of confidence”, Hinton says, “that you’re child’s not accidentally going to wander into some content that might not be appropriate for them”.
On Xbox and PlayStation, parents can grant a temporary exception to these rules by inputting their passcode, for example if the child tries to watch a movie rated higher than what the parental controls allow, but the parent is present and says it’s ok. For this reason, it’s important to have a strong password or code associated with the parent’s account.
Parents can also set an allowance that lets their children buy games or spend money on in-game transactions without giving them unlimited access to the family credit card. Furthermore, they can choose to restrict access to websites through the console, and decide how children can interact with friends or strangers online.
Xbox One also offers a ‘screen time’ feature that can let parents determine when and for how long the console can be played. Phones and tablets
If your child is getting their own iPhone, iPad or Android device, it’s a good idea to set them up with their own Apple ID or Google account so you can keep their digital life and yours separate. Thankfully, you can do this without letting them loose to do whatever they want with their new device.
For Apple families, you’ll need to use your own device to turn on Family Sharing for your own account, and then you can add the Apple ID of any family members to be part of your group. Children under 13 can’t make their own Apple ID, so you’ll have to do it for them.
If you’d prefer certain aspects of the device to be off-limits entirely, for example Safari or the App Store, you can do this on your child’s device by accessing ‘Restrictions’ in the general settings. This is also how you can restrict the device’s use of location services or access to adult-rated apps, music, movies and websites.
When your kids’ accounts are connected to yours with Family Sharing, they will get access to any iTunes and App store purchases you make. If you’d like to give them the autonomy to buy their own things, you can activate ‘Ask to Buy’, which sends a request directly to your phone when a child would like to use your credit card to buy something.
The process is much the same for Android families, with parental controls that limit apps, music and movies by classification on the device itself (you’ll find it in the ‘settings’ of any Google Play branded app).
Android devices don’t usually come with the ability to block certain aspects of the phone entirely, or limit the kinds of websites you can access, although there are many parental control apps you can use to do this.
Anyone over 13 can sign up for a Google account, and if you add your kids to your Family Library group you can allow them to use your money for purchases by entering your PIN on their device.
With the holiday season fast approaching, check out our tech Christmas gift guides:Under $1000$1000 plus