T - Talking about safe phone use

Talking about safe phone use with the whole family

One of the most important steps when getting your child a new phone is to talk about how it will be used. This first activity from the NSPCC toolkit focuses on talking to your child about different ways you can use a phone, the kind of apps and games they could have, and understanding why trust and safety are important when using a phone.

Topics to talk about when it comes to phone safety

For each topic you discuss with your child, pick two questions to ask one another.

For parents:

• Sometimes conversations don't go the way we think. Check out the NSPCC's advice for having tricky conversations before you begin.

For families:

• Part of the excitement of a phone is all the new apps - check out your favourite app's safety features as a family.
• A phone can help you to be more organised - think about how you can manage your time as a family, including setting breaks and managing notifications.

What does this family have to say about using apps?

A new phone often means new fun games - while a lot of these games are initially free, they can sometimes come with hidden costs. It can be easy to get caught up in the moment and end up spending lots of money to make progress in the game, or buy new things. That’s why it’s a good idea to agree as a family on a spending limit. You can set these in the game or on the device itself. Find out how to do this with our Digital Parenting Pro resource.

If you end up overspending on a game or app, try to stay calm and take this as an opportunity to talk about why this has happened and explore ways to stop it happening again. Support service GamCare has lots of accessible and helpful advice.

Now you’ve completed T together, it’s time to move on to R - Recognising rights to safety online.

Frequently asked questions

How much you or your children use your phones a day is a personal choice and can form part of a wider conversation on phone usage as a family. The NSPCC notes that devices are designed to keep us coming back - features like infinite scrolling, app notifications, auto play and rewards for playing games are all persuasive designs to increase our use.  

Mobile and wearable tech such as phones and smart watches can make us feel like we’re always online and it can help everyone to take a break sometimes, to help switch off from online pressures. 

You can use app or device settings to silence notifications, or use the 'do not disturb' mode available on most devices to mute calls and notifications.  

 Check out the NSPCC’s advice on online wellbeing for more information. 

There are lots of positives that having a mobile phone can bring for children, from staying in touch with family and friends to learning about the world. However, there are some challenges, too, and the online world can be tricky for children to navigate. Sometimes it can become overwhelming for young people to feel like they are always in contact or trying to keep up with friends. Just like any other device, mobile phones can come with risks, such as unwanted contact and access to harmful content. The NPSCC toolkit of activities can help you to navigate these risks as a family and show you how to get support if you ever have concerns. A good starting point is to notice how your child is affected by using their phone. Try to: 

  • manage the content that your children see 

  • ensure the interactions they have are suitable 

  • manage how long they’re online, in balance with other activities.

Check out the NSPCC’s advice on online wellbeing for more information.

Talking regularly with your child can help keep them safe online. Making it part of daily conversation, like you would about their day at school, will help your child feel relaxed. 

It also means when they do have any worries, they’re more likely to come and speak to you. 

Agree some rules with your child about what games and apps they’re allowed to use. While there are risks with most online platforms, the NSPCC recommends only letting your child use apps that have privacy settings and a 'report and block' feature.  
Check out more guidance from the NSPCC about the internet and online safety