Christmas gifts for children Understanding devices and smart toys to help keep your child safe online

family giving christmas presents to eachother

'Tis the season to be buying and wrapping presents! Gifts have changed a lot over the years - and more and more children are given presents that connect them to the online world.

Whether it’s a games console, smart toy, or a wearable device - it's important to understand how to keep children safe while they use internet connected devices. Even if it's an old device that's being passed on.

It can be difficult to know the risks for every present your child receives - especially when they're new models - but we have lots of advice and tips to help.  


What you need to know about the devices kids might get this Christmas

Game consoles

  • Benefits
    As well as being fun to play, using games consoles could help your child to connect with friends and can also help them learn key technical and social skills.
  • Risks
    There's a risk of them seeing something inappropriate. The game might not be suitable for your child's age and ability, or they might be worried by a comment or message from another user. Your child may also be talking to people while playing – this could be someone they don’t know.
  • What can you do?
    Before you buy a game for your child, or allow them to play, check the age rating for the game. Remember this is a guideline and you should still think about whether this game is suitable for your child. Set up parental controls on the console that your child is using. Think about who they might be talking to or messaging while gaming. Talk to your child and let them know that if they ever feel uncomfortable they can talk to you or an adult they trust. They may be using a different app to connect and talk to people whilst playing games, like Discord, so its important to understand how that works too.

Mobiles or tablets

  • Benefits
    There are many benefits of having a mobile or tablet. It can give your child access to an endless amount of opportunities to learn and connect, like keeping in touch with friends and family.
  • Risks
    There are many features including easy access to web browser and lots of different apps where your child could see inappropriate content. Having their own device also means they're able to chat or message indendently, and people they don’t know will be able to contact them.
  • What can you do?
    Explore the device with your child and get to know the apps and games they're downloading and how they're using the different features. This will help you to set up parental controls which are appropriate for your child. Talk to them about recognising threats, bullying and inappropriate behaviour, and how they can use reporting tools to help them deal with this.

It would be very nice if, online, they wouldn’t say ‘Be careful who you’re talking to, they might not be who you think they are’, and instead they’re saying ‘If anything at all makes you even slightly uncomfortable, then you can talk to someone.

 

Jess, 17

Smart toys and devices

  • Benefits 
    Smart toys and devices can help your child learn and develop new skills like coding. They can provide entertainment. Some mix offline and online activities, like building a robot. There are also devices that help manage health and fitness activities.
  • Risks
    These depend on each device. You should look at the features and settings of each smart toy or online device. Look for location settings – does the toy share your child’s location? Could your child talk to other people using the device? Can your child access different content like chat rooms or forums using the device?
  • What can you do?
    Because risks depend on the device, it’s important that you explore all the features available on the toy or device before you let your child play with it alone. Look at the instructions or check out the manufacturer website for more details – look out for privacy policies and settings information.

Smart speakers

  • Benefits
    Smart speakers let your child listen to music and podcasts, ask questions and get immediate answers to help with homework and find out information, create to-do lists and set reminders, all just by speaking to the device.
  • Risks
    Your child can access inappropriate content. If you have the device linked to payment features, they could make purchases without you knowing.  Speakers are always listening to conversations, even when they're not being spoken to directly, so be mindful about what data's being collected.
  • What can you do? 
    Explore privacy settings around what the speaker is recording, and what data they share. You can also mute your speaker when you aren’t using it. Its also important to check the content settings to help ensure that your child doesn’t access inappropriate content. You know your child best. What settings you put in place for safety depend on the age and ability of your child. 

Do you need more advice?

Parents and carers should have all the information they need to help keep kids safe online - but sometimes the specifics can be hard to find. That's why we've  collected everything you need to know in our online safety hub.

The information is organised by topic, to make everything easy to find. We have pages for social media, online gaming and parental controls, explaining the risks and steps you can take to help keep your kids safe online.  We also cover what parents need to know about topics such as sharing nudes, livestreaming, harmful content and reporting online safety issues

Worried about a child?

If you're worried about something a child or young person may have experienced online, you can contact the NSPCC helpline for free support and advice. Call us on 0808 800 5000 or contact us online.

Children can contact Childline any time to get support themselves.

Get support