Safer internet day: explore our parental controls and filtering advice

You know they spend a fair chunk of each day connected to a screen, whether it’s for entertainment or schoolwork, and you just want a bit of peace of mind knowing you’re doing all you can to keep them safe and happy. We get it. With Safer Internet Day on 9 February, it’s the perfect time to make sure you’re up to speed on managing what your child can (and can’t) do online. Check out our top tips and tricks on parental controls and privacy settings for mobile networks, devices, apps, and websites.

Controls can be especially useful for keeping younger children safe

Parental controls help you manage and restrict what your kids can see and do online – from sites they can view to the apps they can download and purchases they can make. Controls can be especially useful for keeping younger children safe (and from preventing them innocently spending £££ on games and more), while also teaching them the skills they need to navigate the online world themselves, once they’re given the freedom to do so.

Good news – with the support of additional built-in filters offered by mobile and broadband providers, you have many options for reducing the risk of them coming across malicious, inappropriate or upsetting content. Parental controls are also increasingly relevant across multiple devices and accounts, especially as gaming online is now so social. Read below for advice and further reading for the providers, platforms and devices your family uses:

MOBILE PHONES AND TABLETS

The UK’s main mobile providers (Vodafone, EE, 02 and Three) automatically block 18+ rated content through Active Choice network-level filtering systems. One watch out: when connected to Wi-Fi (at home or elsewhere) these filters won’t apply.

There are on/off systems for features such as Facetime, in-app purchases and Safari.

Parental control options for mobiles include:

Android (LG, Sony, Samsung, Huawei, HTC, Nokia, Motorola)

You can limit which apps, games and content can be downloaded and disable features such as location and camera. Other useful setting features can be found here.

iPhone

There are on/off systems for features such as Facetime, in-app purchases and Safari. You can find more details here.

Windows 10 Phone (Lumia)

The My Family option lets you restrict the games and apps that can be accessed. There’s also the Apps Corner option, which limits content if your child borrows your phone. Read more

HOME COMPUTERS

Macs and PCs both offer parental controls with different levels of flexibility within their respective operating systems. Dependent on whether you have a Mac or PC, the options vary and allow management on additional devices using the same OS.

You can get reports on your child’s online activity and manage time on Windows 10, Xbox One and Android devices.

Parental control options for Macs and PCs include:

Windows 10

You can get reports on your child’s online activity and manage time on Windows 10, Xbox One and Android devices, and set adult approval on purchases, apps, games and media. Additionally, you can block websites and monitor spending habits, while Microsoft Launcher on Windows 10/Android phones can track location. Click here for more.

macOS

Apple lets you block specific functions, e.g. Siri, camera, games, apps and Mail contacts. It can also limit access to sites and iTunes, restrict non-appropriate content, and set specific time limits for weekdays, weekends and bedtime. Click here for more.

BROWSING

There are options to prevent apps being downloaded and to block sites containing nudity, violence and inappropriate content.

Your web browser lets you control content and search options. Whether you are using Chrome, Internet Explorer or Firefox, there are options to prevent apps being downloaded, and to block sites containing nudity, violence and inappropriate content.

Remember: Apply your desired settings across every browser installed on every family computer and device…

SEARCH ENGINES

Google Family Link can filter out most adult sites.

Google also has options to manage what can be searched. Google Family Link can filter out most adult sites and report inappropriate content. YouTube can also be restricted in a similar way. Find out more here.

Other search engines, such as Bing and Yahoo, have their own safe search options, found under settings – this is typically displayed with a cog icon.

GAMES

Gaming is a big part of children’s lives today, not only as a form of entertainment, but also as a social and interactive activity, which is why it’s important their devices and accounts are suitably restricted to age-appropriate limits.

Consoles like PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo all offer their own options, including time and spending limits, and managing access to content, sites and purchases.

Consoles and app store settings give you the option to limit what games your child can play, based on PEGI age ratings.

Three steps for using parental controls to encourage safer gaming:

  1. Consoles and app store settings give you the option to limit what games your child can play, based on PEGI age ratings, to ensure they don’t make inappropriate purchases.
  2. If you are not comfortable with your child playing online, or if you don’t want them chatting with people outside of their friend list, you can disable chat functions or restrict gaming to friend circles.
  3. Many games let players block, report or mute anyone they don’t want contact with. If they don’t already, show your child how to do this in each of the games they play.

ADDITIONAL SUPPORT

Vodafone Secure Net protects your family from harmful websites and viruses.

Vodafone Content Control prevents access to online content and services rated 18+ on the Vodafone mobile network.