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Gifting devices this Christmas? How to set your child up for a safe online experience

| 04 Dec 2023

Tis the season of giving, and many of us may be thinking about gifting our children with new devices this Christmas. But how can you support your child to stay safe online while embracing the opportunities this fab new bit of tech offers them?

Many children might be hoping for their own smart device this Christmas. And if they’re at that age where their friends are starting to pick up on the latest tech and gadgets, then why not? A device can be an amazing tool to inspire creativity, feed curiosity, and strengthen relationships. However, when not used properly, the digital realms also open up opportunities for dangerous interactions, scams, hackers, and a disconnect from real life.

Here are some actions you can take to help your children stay safe on their new Christmas device. 

Secondhand device safety checks


With the cost of new devices skyrocketing, secondhand tech is a fantastic, greener alternative - saving money and recycling a device that may otherwise have gone to landfill. If you’re looking to buy secondhand, the first place to look would be from a recognized reseller. Refurbished devices from reputable resellers will often have to pass rigorous safety checks, and may even have a warranty included for that extra bit of comfort. 


Another place to look for a secondhand device is online marketplaces, where there’s a little more risk as you probably won’t get the chance to inspect the device personally before you buy it. Make sure to do your research, read reviews and go to a reputable marketplace before purchasing anything. And, just to be safe, ensure your payment has purchase protection. 


As your ‘almost new’ device would have had a previous user, it’s vital to ensure that there is no malicious software or data on it before you enter any personal information.


A complete factory reset will completely wipe the device off any information - you might need to go to the manufacturer’s website to find out how to do this. If you have bought your device from a specialized reseller, they may have already done this for you.  Once it’s up and running, make sure to switch on automatic updates if possible, as doing this ensures that it’s not running on an outdated security system.


Get to know the device before the big day 


Now, you should have a safe, clean device that’s ready for its next user. It is a good idea to install some form of antivirus. Luckily, there should be lots of sales around the festive season, so you can get strong cybersecurity (and peace of mind) at little cost.  


Take some time to explore your way around the device - where are the privacy and accessibility settings? What are they set to at default? Can you carry out a manual update should you need to?  


When you gift the ‘new’ device to your child, make sure that they apply some of their own security measures such as a Face ID and passcodes to keep their data safe. Then, talk your child through the different features that you had a look at previously including location, Bluetooth, and Airdrop, and show them how best to use them. Whilst these features can be useful, if they’re active all the time, they can create additional opportunities for misuse. Explore this Digital Matters lesson to find out more about protecting personal information. 


Parental controls

Parental controls are features and settings that you can find in operating systems, search engines, apps, and browsers. They may also be included in your Wi-Fi router or external consoles. They are a useful set of tools that enable you to manage how and what your children can do online, including:  


  • Content filtering

The most basic of the controls is a content filter. You can set this to block content that is deemed age-inappropriate, violent, or pornographic. 


  • Screen time setting 

The constant stimulation and interactivity a device provides means that your child might quite happily spend all day browsing online. With screen time controls, you can limit the amount of time your child spends online, or even block off certain periods (before bed, for example), to encourage a healthy life balance. 

Read more about setting up parental controls in our blog here



Whilst you can put all the tools in place, letting your children know that they can open up to you about what they are doing online is key. Make it clear that they can always talk to you if they have any concerns about any of the content they’re viewing or any interactions they may be having. 


Explain to your children why you have put the parental controls on that you have, so they know that you are doing it in their best interest, and not just to keep them from accessing ‘exciting grown-up’ content and forcing them to spend time offline. Show them the benefits of their new device, like being able to call home if they need to, play games on a long car journey, or simply stay in touch with friends over vacation.


A digital device opens up many positive opportunities and a level of independence for your children. When navigated properly, it acts as a useful tool to build confidence and curb curiosities. For a selection of lessons and guides on how to support your children’s online safety, have a look at the free resources on Internet Matters.  Whilst the device might be for Christmas, being able to use it safely is a skill they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. 


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