Back to school

The start of a new school year is a milestone in itself. But it can mark other milestones too. It might be the time when you consider giving your child access to a device. Whether that means allowing younger children an hour a day on the family tablet or sending older kids off to secondary school with their own smartphone, here’s what to consider if you’re giving them tech for the new term.

Primary school

Being online is a great way for children to learn social skills, explore and have fun. If you decide your child’s ready for a device, talk to them upfront about why they want it and how they’re going to use it. At this stage, it’s important to discuss the kind of things they should and shouldn’t be sharing online. Kids this age are passionate about games like Minecraft, which is brilliant for inspiring creativity and problem solving. But it can prove a distraction and does have some dangers. So agree some ground rules about when they can use their device and how to stay safe.

Sharing a family tablet at home can be a good way of making sure your child is using the device sensibly. And you can easily set up parental controls and restrictions to limit their online activity.

 Secondary school

Chances are, if your child’s moving up to secondary school, you’ve given them their first smartphone. And at 13, they’re legally allowed to sign up to many of the social media accounts. Before they do, there are some simple and effective measures you can take to keep your kids safe in this big new social world. Messaging apps and social networks expose them to people outside their normal circle of friends. So take a look at our advice on what to do if you think your children might be communicating with strangers online.

Your kids are exploring and maturing, so they may discover and enjoy gaming with adult themes. This in turn can lead to them engaging in behaviour they think is harmless, but which could have serious consequences. Like sexting for instance – sending and receiving sexually explicit or rude texts, videos or photos. This can be a difficult topic to bring up with your children. But it’s important to talk to them about the images they share, and how they can impact their own and their friends’ lives.

Staying safe online

It’s natural to want to monitor your child’s behaviour to a degree. But you also need to give them the freedom to grow and learn to be responsible online on their own.   Get to grips with parental controls and safe modes. Most internet browsers, search engines, websites, devices and home wifi networks have parental controls in the settings.

There’s no need to panic. We’ve got lots of helpful advice to help keep your child safe online. Covering everything from viewing unsuitable content and making expensive in-app purchases to downloading problematic content.

If they have an O2 mobile, you can turn on our Parental Control service by calling 61818. They’ll only be able to visit websites suitable for under-12s, but it won’t work if they’re using wifi.

It helps to get advice from parents going through the same thing. For real reviews from O2 staff and customers about the apps your children are likely to be using, visit Net Aware, a website developed with the NSPCC.

Keep talking

Discovering the online world with your child doesn’t have to be scary.  Ask your kids to show you their favourite things to do online, and explore them together. You’ll be able to learn about their online world and how best to support them. You can talk to them about staying safe and let them know they can talk to you if something worries them.

And if you’re ever concerned about your child’s activity online, there are plenty of places to turn. You’ll find lots of expert advice about keeping your kids safe online on our Online Safety pages, or you can call the free Online Safety Helpline on 0808 800 5002.

Any children looking for advice or concerned about something they are experiencing online can call Childline on 0800 1111.