How to use Parental Controls

How to use Parental Controls

Watching videos online, getting help with homework and playing games – there’s plenty of fun to be had on the internet if you’re a child.

But there’s also plenty of content they don’t need to see, whether that’s music videos of an explicit nature or adult takes on their favourite cartoon characters.

Ideally, you should be supervising young children when they are using the internet – but that’s not always possible.

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It’s not just inappropriate content that is concerning parents when it comes to internet-connected devices, screen time is also a big concern for modern parents. Should you limit your child’s screen time? And if so, how much should they have. There are currently no hard-and-fast guidelines on what constitutes a ‘healthy’ amount of screen time, so it’s down to parents to set their own boundaries for their child’s use of tech.

This is where parental controls come in. Not only can they filter out unwanted content, but they can also limit what apps children use and when ensuring they get the right balance. Here’s what you need to know – and do.

1. On your home wi-fi

Make sure your ISP network-level filters are switched on. This will ensure any device connected to the wi-fi network in your home won’t be able to access inappropriate content such as websites that relate to pornography, hate, crime, drugs, hacking, violence, self-harm and suicide. You should be asked if you want these settings switched on when you sign up to a broadband contract, but you can also turn them on at a later by logging in to your online account with your ISP.

Justin Paget

Some broadband providers offer extra filters too; for example Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Sky also block access to website that’s may harbour viruses, while BT lets you block specific sites as well. These BT filters also apply when you'resigned-in with your BT ID when using the ISP's free wi-fi hotspots.

Some routers also offer the ability to pause the internet for all or specific devices in the home at set times, such as dinner time. Virgin Media customers need a Home Hub 3 to do this (it’s part of their Intelligent Wifi promise) while BT customers require a BT Smart Hub 2. If your broadband provider is Sky, you can get this functionality through the Broadband Buddy app which is part of the £5 per month Sky Broadband Boost add-on for all sky broadband packages. TalkTalk customers can block access to some websites at set time through the Homework Time feature on their account but this doesn’t work with any site that uses secure log-in (these are sites that once logged in, display https:// in the URL bar).

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2. Smartphones and tablets

Whether your child has an iPhone, iPad or Google Android device, there are plenty of built-in tools for ensuring they get the right amount of screentime for them.

On iPhones and iPads running iOS 12 open, there’s a feature called Screen Time that lets you set time limits for different categories of apps, instigate a period of ‘Downtime’ when only the apps you specify can be used and even the restrict who can communicate with them, the apps they can use and the ratings on music, podcasts and TV shows they can see in Apple’s own apps.

Open the Settings menu, choose Screen Time and follow the on-screen instruction. If the iPhone is running iOS11 or below, you can restrict access to some apps (but you won’t have the other Screen Time features). Head to Settings, General, Restrictions, and adjust the options on offer.

Michael Heffernan

Google Android devices running version seven of the operating system or higher have very similar options, but you will need to install the free Google Family Link app onto your phone to set up the various controls. Older Android phones and tablets only offer the ability to restrict the apps they can use by creating a dedicated user profile for your child. Head to Settings and then Add user or profile.

Amazon’s Fire tablets are based on Google Android but have their ownbuilt-in parental controls and child-friendly apps that can be used if you set your child up with their own profile. You’ll be offered the option to create profiles for children and adjust the parental control option when you set-up the tablet. Alternatively, create a child profile through the Amazon Household website which will be transferred to the tablet over wi-fi. Now tap the 'Fire for Kids' icon from the home screen, select your child’s profile and press the Settings icon to set parental controls.

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Finally consider installing child-specific version of popular apps, such as YouTube Kids, iPlayer Kids and even a child-friendly web browser, like Mobicip Safe Browser. These will ensure you can leave young children unattended if needs be, safe in the knowledge they wont stumble across anything inappropriate. You will need to restrict access to the usual browser and the full versions of these apps if they installed on the device, too. You’ll find this in ScreenTime on iOS 12 or Restrictions in iOS 11. On Android devices use the Family Link app if its running version seven or the dedicated user profile for older devices.

GHI TIP: If your child’s device has a mobile sim, check with the network that filters to stop them accessing non-child-friendly content are switched on. Alternatively, if your kids are using free public wi-fi, look for the friendly wi-fi hotspots sign. This government-supported scheme means access to inappropriate sites and content is blocked on the wi-fi connection.

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3. Computers

Just like smartphones and tablets, computers offer ways to block age-inappropriate, website, apps and games, set time limits and access activity reports.

If they have a Windows 10 PC, you’ll need to add the child as a family member to your own Microsoft account. To do this choose Settings from the Start menu and then select Accounts followed by Add a family member. Now choose Add a child and enter their Microsoft email (Outlook or Hotmail) elect. If they do not yet have a Microsoft email account, choose ‘The person I want to add doesn’t have an email address’ and follow the instructions, on screen.

Once you’ve done this, tap Manage family settings online and you’ll be taken to your Family page. From here scroll down to the relevant child and tap Screen time, app and game limits or content restrictions to set the parental controls. You can access these settings any time by heading to the Microsoft Family Safety website.

Justin Lambert

If you’ve got a PC running Windows 8, the Family Security function lets you create individual profiles for everyone that uses the computer and then restricts the websites they can visit and the length of time they use the machine for. Head to the Settings menu and select Accounts then Family & Other to get started on creating accounts and setting limits.

If you’ve got a Mac, Apple has similar built-in parental controls. To access these, open the Apple menu and then select System Preferences followed by Parental Controls.

Chromebooks use the same Google Family Link feature as Android smartphone and tablets mentioned above.

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4. Games Consoles

There are plenty of options on games consoles to make sure your kids are safe from unfriendly content, as well as set restriction and boundaries for games and apps.

If you have a Nintendo switch, the free smartphone app (iOS, Android) is easy to set up lets you see and limit when games are played and for how long. Sign in to your Nintendo account through the app, then enter the code displayed into the console. Both the phone and the Switch need to be connected to the same internet for any changes to be applied.

On a PlayStation you can limit how long they can game for, as well as what the maximum age-rated games and Blu-ray movies they can play and even the websites they visit. But set-up can be a little fiddly.

Tom Werner

You’ll need an adult account that doubles as the Family Manger. Head to Settings, Parental Controls/Family Management and select Family Management. You may be prompted to sign in again. Now select Create a Family and join your kid’s accounts to the family. If they’re not already created go to Settings, Parental Controls/Family Management, Family Management, Add Family Member then Create User. Now you can adjust the parental controls

Ratings for games and movies are split into nine different levels with PEGI ratings for games and BBFC for movies so you know what will be off limits.

Just like PlayStation, Xbox has a good amount of parental controls. You can restrict when and for how long games are played, as well as the limit games by age rating. It’ll even provide a report on your child’s activity and depending upon the restrictions you set, alert you if your child has requested more screen time or to add a friend they can communicate with.

The free Xbox Family Settings app, which works for the new Xbox Series X and Series S consoles as well as the older Xbox One, makes it easy to create and add your own account to the Xbox as well as account for your family members.Then you’ll be able to apply and adjust the parental controls. You can also do this from the Microsoft Family Settings website as mentioned above under Windows 10 PCs.

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