Parental controls are designed to help protect children from inappropriate content they may come across online. These controls can be used to limit access to only age-appropriate content, to set usage times and to monitor activity.
There are four main places you can find parental controls, and it can help to set up a combination of these:
- Internet provider: you can set up filters to help block access to inappropriate content on any device that connects to your home WiFi
- Mobile Operator: filters are often automatically set up on mobile contracts, but you can double-check with your provider
- Devices: many devices have parental control settings, for example, to help restrict spending in apps or disable location functions
- Online Services: sites like BBC iPlayer and YouTube have parental control settings to help restrict access to inappropriate content
It’s worth being aware that no parental controls or filtering options are 100% effective. As children grow up, they can become quite tech-savvy and they may learn how to disable the parental controls already put in place. Be aware also that once parental controls by your internet provider are set up on your WiFi, if your child access 3G or 4G at home, the parental controls can be bypassed. Similarly, if your child goes to their friend’s house where there are no parental controls in place, they will be able to access whatever they want. For these reasons, it’s important to educate your child about the potential risks online, and establish rules concerning the sites that are suitable or inappropriate, to visit. It is also good to give your child strategies on how to cope with anything upsetting they see online, ie. they could turn the tablet screen down immediately and come and find an adult who will remedy the situation by getting rid of the website/picture. It's important that you involve yourself in their online world; as a starting point you could ask them what their favourite websites are and why they like them.
Where should I begin?
Type the name of the device plus the words 'parental controls' into a search engine eg. ‘iPad + parental controls’. This can help you to find how-to guides and useful video tutorials.
Look at UK Safer Internet Centre guides about setting up filters on your home internet, understanding parental control tools on devices and the safety settings on social networks and other online services.
Enable Google SafeSearch to filter explicit content whilst searching on Google.
Children are accessing the internet on a range of different devices. You can now access the internet wherever and whenever you want. Your child may be using portable devices such as smartphones, laptops, gaming devices (eg Nintendo 3DS) and tablets (eg iPad). It can really help to be informed about how to install parental controls onto each device.
Devices connect to the internet in three main ways, and you might want to consider filtering options:
- 3G/4G: this provides access to the internet when you're on the go, and is often provided as part of your mobile phone contract. Filters are often set up by default, but you can check with your mobile operator to ensure they are activated for your children's devices.
- Connect to your home WiFi: devices can connect to the internet at home (and this saves using up your mobile data allowance). All of the major internet providers offer free filtering tools that work across all devices connected to the home internet. See the video guides from BT, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin Media.
- Access public WiFi: it's also possible to connect to public WiFi when you're out and about, with shops, cafes and restaurants increasingly offering internet access. Look out for the Friendly WiFi symbol which means the content has been filtered.