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How to set up your child’s new devices this Christmas

Christmas means lots of new connected tech around homes – and inevitable stacks of user manuals and T&Cs to read. 

It can be hard to take it all in, especially when a child just wants to start playing on Christmas morning. 

So how can you set up your new devices to help your child be safe and secure on them? Here’s our guide to the key parental controls on some of the most popular gadgets of 2020

Note: Though parental controls can be a useful tool, they don’t eliminate risk completely. Ensuring your child can recognise and respond to challenges is the best way of helping them gain digital resilience

Gaming consoles

The must-have gaming consoles for Christmas 2020 are the new Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, plus the ever-popular Nintendo Switch. 

Consoles are now largely dependent on an internet connection, meaning many more safety issues to consider when setting up for the first time. Here’s what you need to know.

Nintendo Switch

Of the big three gaming consoles, the Nintendo Switch is the most family-orientated. It still offers different types of accounts for children – meaning they can access content, chat functions, apps and purchases appropriate to their age. You will need to create your own parent account to manage this.

Managing via app

The Nintendo Switch has parental controls that can be controlled with the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls App (iOS, Android). All parental controls are then applied to the device, rather than an individual user, so you should always bear in mind the youngest family member when deciding them. 

Nintendo eShop restrictions can also allow you to manage if and how money is spent on the device, which can be useful in preventing large amounts of in-game purchases. This includes setting up a Child Nintendo Account for under-15s or a new Nintendo Account for 16+.

Managing via console

If setting up on the device, go to ‘system settings’ on the home menu to find ‘parental control settings’. 

You can preset settings by age. These levels include ‘Young Child’ for content and customisable access levels suitable for children 8+, ‘Child’ for children 13+, and ‘Teen’ for 17+. 

These controls can be disabled via a PIN that can be managed from an adult account. The device will be disabled until it next goes into sleep mode.

Microsoft Xbox Series X

The Xbox X/S is far removed from the original Xbox that landed in 2002. The next-gen 2020 release is a gaming, social networking, multimedia and retail platform. And this means there’s plenty to consider, based on your child’s age. 

Managing via app

Microsoft’s Xbox Family Settings app (iOS, Android) can help you manage age-appropriate content and activities – such as in-game purchasing, chat, video streaming, apps and internet access. 

You’ll need to create your own Xbox account, through which you can then create a family group and child accounts to suit all ages. 

Other settings include screen-time limits, and the ability to manage who your child can communicate with in games or on the platform. It also allows you to manage requests from your child – such as screen time or friend requests – as well as remove other people your child is following.

The Family App also works with Xbox One and – if you have it – all settings will migrate to Xbox Series X.

Managing via console

On the Xbox Series X, you can stop someone setting up an additional account by going to Settings > Account > Family settings. You’ll find a range of options there to manage what permissions and access are allowed on the device. 

If screen time is a concern, but you don’t want to simply set limits, you can add a push notification to suggest the user takes a break, from every 30 minutes to every 2 hours. Go to Settings > Preferences > Break Reminder to access this.

Sony PlayStation 5

Like the Xbox X/S, the next-gen PlayStation 5 offers multiple online functions. With these come many great features – but also risks. Start by setting up your own account, and you’ll then be able to create accounts for other family members, with appropriate settings. 

Managing via web browser

In order to manage family access, you need to create an adult account with the PlayStation Network. Once set up with a family manager account, you can create individual family accounts suitable for various ages. 

Settings include playing time limits, purchases (from your family manager wallet), access to age-appropriate games, videos and apps, plus online chat and messaging. 

You can also block user-generated video, streams and pictures, meaning only PlayStation-curated content is visible. 

Another useful feature is the ability to appoint other adults in the family as ‘guardians’ to manage settings and spending from the wallet.

Managing via console

To manage settings from the device itself, go to Settings > Family and Parental Controls > Family Management > Parental Controls

Here, you can select the child account you want to manage restrictions. Click edit to do this. 

Gaming: good to know

PEGI age ratings: what games are suitable for what ages?

The risks of in-game spending: and what you need to know 

What happens during in-game chat – and what are the risks?

A guide to Twitch - the live-streaming app popular with gamers

Smart speakers

Google’s Nest and Home and Amazon’s Alexa devices offer quick access to music, stories and information. But just like a web browser, they can lead to inappropriate content for children if not set up properly. 

They’re predominantly bedroom devices, too, so you need to consider when they should be accessible around bedtimes. Here’s what you should know.

Google Home and Nest

You need to set up a child Google account for Google’s smart speaker options. While most settings remain the same for parents and children, some vital differences make it safer.

A child Google account is suitable for under-13s and will prevent some actions on the device. This includes Google Play Store and other online purchases, as well as SafeSearch restrictions on online content. You need to set up their Nest or Home device before linking to a child Google account.

Managing via app

Download the Google Family Link app (iOS, Android) and set up your account and that of your child. Once done, go to your child’s account and click Manage Settings > Google Assistant > Add your child to new devices. Follow the set-up instructions, and then once done, your child can use the device to set up their voice recognition.

On the app, you can manage access, such as turning off third-party apps, purchases (‘Pay with your assistant’), Google Music and YouTube.

Google Family Link can also limit content with its ‘For Families’ badge. You can find more about managing the settings here.

Amazon Echo Dot

Just as Google’s Nest and Home speakers are connected to Google’s services and the internet, Amazon Echo Dot is similarly linked to online and Amazon’s own services.

You need to download the Alexa app (iOS, Android) which will then help you to set up and manage the Echo device. 

Managing via app

In the app, select More > Device > Amazon Echo > [your relevant device]. You then need to set up Amazon FreeTime Unlimited when first using the device, which will then prompt you on the app to set up suitable access, settings and restrictions for your child. 

This includes turning off access to explicit material, calling and messaging, plus daily time limits – including when the device turns off and on around bedtime.

Smart speakers: good to know

Are smart speakers listening to your child? What you need to know about data collection

Phones, tablets and devices

Apple devices

Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod devices have a simple set-up to manage what a child can do on them. Everything is controlled via the device itself and you can protect these settings via a PIN code. Here’s what you need to know.

Managing via device

To start, go to Settings > Screen time. Click continue and then select ‘This is my child’s [device]’.

From here, follow prompts until you can enter a Parent Passcode. On some devices, you will be asked to provide your Apple ID and password, in order to be able to reset it. Then tap Content and Privacy restrictions.

Here, you can manage iTunes and App Store purchases – for instance preventing your child from downloading and deleting apps, or making in-app purchases. Options include blocking apps and purchases entirely or requiring a password.

You can also manage built-in apps and features, such as email – and turning these off will make them disappear. 

To manage the types of content allowed, tap Content & Privacy Restrictions > Content Restrictions. Here, you can restrict music, videos, podcasts, movies, TV shows, books and apps not appropriate for your child, based on age ratings. 

You can manage web content via Content & Privacy Restrictions > Web Content, via approved, blocked lists or blocking all adult content. Siri can also be blocked from inappropriate content.

In Content & Privacy Restrictions > Privacy, you can also limit features such as location services and sharing and Bluetooth sharing – and block apps from accessing contacts and calendars.

Android devices

Google’s Android operating systems are used on most non-Apple smartphones (including those from Samsung, Sony, Asus, HTC, Huawei, Lenovo, LG, Motorola and Nokia, plus Google’s own Pixel range), as well as many tablets and Chromebooks. 

When setting these devices up for children, you need to create a Google account for them, using either the Family Link App, their device or via a browser. You can then access parental controls.

Managing via device

Content restrictions can be managed through the Play Store app. To access apps and games, your child will need their Google account. This can be linked to a Play Store account

In the top left-hand corner, tap Menus > Settings > Parental Controls. Turn the Parental Controls on and then create a PIN code. 

Tap the type of content you want to filter (for example, Apps & Games) and you are then given a list of options for ages, from Everyone (the most restrictive, family-friendly options), through 10+, Teen, Mature 17+, and Adults Only 18+, up to Unrestricted. Other restriction options include Movies, TV, Books, and Music.

Managing via app

You can use the Google Family Link app (iOS, Android) to manage content access. Download the app and set up your account and that of your child. 

Once you’ve done that, go to your child’s account and click Manage Settings > Google Assistant > Add your child to new devices. Follow the set-up instructions.

In the app, you can manage access, such as turning off third-party apps, purchases (‘Pay with your assistant’), Google Music and YouTube.

You can also manage screen time through the Family Link app. This includes setting daily limits, maximum time on individual apps, bedtimes and bonus minutes.

Amazon Fire for Kids

The Kindle Fire 8 HD Kids and other tablets in the range are designed with child usage in mind. In fact, their default settings mean that rather than restricting access, you might need to set them up to grant access to apps, content and web pages. They also feature built-in tools to manage screen time, set educational tasks and limit time spent on certain types of content.

Managing via device

Fire for Kids automatically blocks the Silk browser and Content stores, so if you want your child to access either of those features, you’ll need to access parental controls. An Amazon account will help with this, meaning you can manage app and content purchases if your child requires them.

After turning the device on, tap Apps > Fire for Kids > Get Started. You will then need to enter or create a Parental Controls password. 

Navigate to the Add Child Profile and choose a profile image. You can create up to 3 more profiles via Add Another Child

Once done, you can add content to your child’s profile, based on what you choose and their suitable age. The free Fire for Kids Unlimited service will also add extra, age-appropriate resources. You get the first 12 months free when you buy a device, and can continue using it for £1.99/month thereafter (£3.99 without an Amazon Prime account).

Within the devices settings are options to decide if the Silk web browser is accessible, to set daily time limits and even to add educational targets – for instance that your child must spend a certain amount of time reading before playing a game or watching a video.

Once you’re happy with the set-up, you can switch to their profile by clicking their profile picture icon. To change their settings, the device will require your password – as will in-app purchases if you have an Amazon account.

Phones, tablets and devices: good to know

Parent guides for popular apps and online platforms for children

PEGI game ratings and what games are suitable for which children

Family-friendly games and apps for tablets

Social media apps: what platforms are suitable for what ages

In-game spending: and what you need to know 

In-game chat and the risks associated

Live-streaming platforms and what parents should know