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The internet and online world are vast sources of information, and it's incredibly easy to come across something inappropriate, whether on purpose or by accident.  Protecting children from inappropriate or harmful content is one of the steps parents may wish to take. 

Luckily for parents, many devices and services offer ways of reducing any harm.

What are parental controls?

Parental controls refer to a set of features and settings designed to help parents and guardians manage and monitor their children's use of electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, computers, gaming consoles, and smart TVs.

These controls are aimed at ensuring a safer and more appropriate digital experience for children, by restricting access that may be harmful to them. 

Here are some examples:

Mobile Phones

All modern phones and computers now have controls that can restrict access to specific apps, set screen-time limits, manage content and privacy, and monitor calls and texts.

Computers and Portable Devices

Similar to mobile phones, computer and portable devices (e.g. laptops, iPads, tablets, etc.) have parental control options. Parents can also specifically set up accounts for their children that have access limits.  There are many third-party apps that provide comprehensive parental control options.

Games consoles

There are various features available for parents to manage access on games consoles. These include age restrictions, preventing the purchase of specific games, or blocking the playing of games if their age rating is too high. Many consoles also provide options to manage communication with other players by managing friend requests, multiplayer options, and online chatting.

Social media and other online services (e.g. TV streaming)

Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., have parental control options, which can help you see who your children are communicating with. 

TV-streaming services offer controls to restrict video content. A common way of doing this is the setup of ‘Kids Profiles’, which restrict content to those rated 12 and under. These features can be accessed on the device itself or by visiting the companies’ websites.

Search engines

Browsing the internet can be made safer for children by enabling safe-search filtering in the browser’s site permissions. Other options include the use of third-party software that filter and block particular types of websites and online content. Browser extensions can be added to a browser to allow or block online content and provide internet usage reports.

Parental controls are not a complete fix

Content filters are not 100% effective, and it is likely that your child will see something inappropriate or possibly upsetting if they have access to the internet. It's therefore important to have open conversations with your children about what they are seeing and doing on the internet.


This page was last reviewed 19/03/24