Parental controls

Parental controls are designed to help protect children from inappropriate content they may come across online. These controls can be used to limit access to only age appropriate content, to set usage times and to monitor activity. 

There are four main places you can find parental controls, and it can help to set up a combination of these:

  • Internet provider: you can set up filters to help block access to inappropriate content on any device that connects to your home wifi
  • Mobile operator: filters are often automatically set up on mobile contracts, but you can double-check with your provider
  • Devices: many devices have parental control settings, for example, to help restrict spending in apps or disable location functions 
  • Online services: sites like BBC iPlayer and YouTube have parental control settings to help restrict access to inappropriate content

It’s worth being aware that no parental controls or filtering options are 100% fool proof. As well as setting up parental controls it’s important to educate your children about the potential risks online, and establish rules concerning the sites that are suitable, or inappropriate, to visit. It's important that you involve yourself in their online world; as a starting point you could ask them what their favourite websites are and why they like them. 

Where should I begin?

Once you have bought a new device for your child, have a look at the manual that came with it as these normally contain some information and a step by step guide on how to install parental controls. You could also type the name of the device plus parental controls into a search engine eg. ‘Nintendo DSi + parental controls’. This can help you to find how-to guides and useful video tutorials.

Check out our UK Safer Internet Centre guides about setting up filters on your home internet and understanding parental control tools on devices

Portable devices

Children are accessing the internet on a range of different devices. Gone are the days where the only way to surf the web was on a desktop computer in your home. You can now access the internet wherever and whenever you want. Your child may be using portable devices such as smartphones, laptops, gaming devices (eg Nintendo DSi), media players (eg iPod Touch) and tablets (eg iPad). It can really help to be informed about how to install parental controls onto each device.

Devices connect to the internet in three main ways, and you might want to consider filtering options:

  • 3G/4G: this provides access to the internet when you're on the go, and is often provided as part of your mobile phone contract. Filters are often set up by default, but you can check with your mobile operator to ensure they are activated for your children's devices.
  • Connect to your home wifi: devices can connect to the internet at home (and this saves using up your 3G data allowance). All of the major internet providers offer free filtering tools that work across all devices connected to the home internet. See our handy video guides from BT, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin Media.
  • Access public wifi: it's also possible to connect to public wifi when you're out and about, with shops, cafes and restuarants increasingly offering internet access. Look out for the Friendly WiFi symbol which means the content has been filtered.