It started 10 years ago with games like Snake, the aim to guide your line of pixels around the screen, eating food as you go. It’s easy to forget that your child’s experiences with devices, like your phone or tablet have changed so much. What was an easy decision to just hand them your phone to play with now requires more thought, planning and attention to ensure that their experience is safe, enjoyable and appropriate to their age.

 

As parents, it’s important that we don’t forget the ‘enjoyable’ part, with so much fear and concern around the safety of children online, their chance to enjoy a game or connect with their friends can sometimes be thrown out the window. Of course, this enjoyment needs to be balanced with their safety and our sanity in a way that’s easy to monitor.

We’re lucky in that there are ways to block digital content based on its rating. Even so, it’s important that with all apps we download for our kids, we give them a go for five minutes.  It’s a quick and easy way to make sure that the app is fine for them to use.

This leads to an important point about passwords. On iPhones and iPads, by default you have to enter in your password for every app you wish to download, whether paid or free but on an Android device, typically you only have to enter your password for paid apps, while free can be downloaded at any time. In our household, we make sure to password protect all downloads to ensure that we have control over the games and apps downloaded to our various devices.  Like many others, I was guilty of recycling the same password across multiple accounts.  But just as we wouldn’t hand over our wallets to children at the check-out counter, parents shouldn’t be so quick to pass them the key to buying games online.

Another growing concern amongst parents when it comes to online games and social networking sites is the risks of geotagging. This is an option on most modern smartphones and tablets that, sometimes set to ‘on’ by default, saves your GPS location to the photo or video itself. So for example, all those gorgeous baby photos you take and upload to Facebook will all have your GPS location embedded inside them. If those photos are shared publically, it’s very easy for people to extract that information and have your baby’s photo, with your home address attached!

The safest thing to do is disable geotagging on your camera app. As an added measure, parents can disable GPS when their child is using the device, this way apps can’t also attach GPS information to posts or content shared.

Finally, the most unpredictable worry for parents is the threat of child predators online. As recent and serious as this threat is, the approach to combat it is the same as it’s always been. ‘Stranger danger’ concepts can be adapted to the internet and educating your children on the dangers and ways to best avoid them goes a long way to making sure they stay safe online.

While it’s easy to see why some parents can get bamboozled by all the tech-speak, and admittedly my own rules of gameplay have been (and still are) drawn up through some trial and error, embracing the children’s fantasy world of games and social networking is not as hard as I thought it would be.  Just as parents have had to screen the movies our children watch, the music they listen to and the books they read, the same goes for digital content.   For example, many parents might not realise that some of the most popular social media sites such as Facebook have a minimum age of 13 years. Sometimes the most common breaches to a child’s safety occur when parents don’t fully understand the terms and conditions of the games or websites that their children are interacting with. While the language in theses legal documents can be onerous, parents can learn a lot about the website or games in question by doing a simple five minute Google search. There is a wealth of knowledge available online which will help inform parents about what app or game their kids are playing.

Above all, it’s up to parents to keep our eyes on our children.  It’s not only a great excuse to avoid housework, but a good way to spend some time with your kids while learning and having fun with them!

  • I guess I was lucky. I didn’t have that kind of phone when my kids were growing up. They get enough screen time now. It is so hard to stop them.

    Reply

  • No, you can’t have my phone, you’re too young!
    I’m using it!
    It’s mine!
    Go outside and play!
    Maybe later, when you eat all your tea, brush your teeth and are reasy fir bed

    Reply

  • Its very good knowledge to know! Thanks for sharing this article!

    Reply

  • Thanks for the info. I don’t let my kids have my phone at all. Much to their disgust!

    Reply

  • yeah this is pretty informative and i can see that you are helping people

    Reply

  • I didn’t really know much about geotagging – will be checking my phone settings right away!

    Reply

  • these all good points here
    Nowadays phones really already do a lot of things so i wouldn’t let my child play with it unsupervised for that fact

    Reply

  • I stopped handing over my phone when the kids “accidentally” changed the settings!

    Reply

  • I don’t let my kids play with my phone.

    Reply

  • My kids never played with my phone. I never offered it to them. I made sure that they had their books and games with them in the car I encouraged then to look out the windows and see where they were going. When my kids went to camp or away or to the movies we had a roaming phone that everyone used to call the person they needed a pickup. They are now teenagers who can go for days without touching their phones. Playing on the phone is seen as anti-social and not encouraged.

    Reply

  • My son loves playing on my iPhone especially dinosaur games like Jurassic park lol i never get me phone when hes around lol its crazy.

    Reply

  • really need to talk to your kids and look over all the time my ten year old brought her ipod to me with a push from a porn site how is that even allowed from a kids game luckly she knew to bring it to me although it came straight up with a naked women which she had to see. Luckly also with the restrictions in place that it was not accessable how was it allowed to be pushed than?

    Reply

  • Seriously, giving a teenager a phone at 13 is asking for trouble. Most 14 year olds on facebook have over 1000 friends which more than half of those people they would never of meet.
    I’ll be honest, I remember giving my number out to strangers on the net when I was younger. Shoot, my cousin & I even watched a guy on a web cam … while her mum was at work one night. I just wish that stranger danger on the net was pushed a lot more when I was younger.
    I know I certainly will be making my children aware when they’re older.

    Reply

  • Boy I had no idea about the use of or precious passwords being used so freely.
    I’m glad that my kids did not ask to play on my phone. I never have down loaded a game as yet and probably never will.

    Reply

  • Some great info here that I had no idea about!

    Reply

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