What do parental controls do?
These controls are designed to help parents and carers manage their child's online activities. There are various types, some of which are free but others which can be bought. However, nothing is totally fool proof so they shouldn't replace the need for you to support and advise your child using the internet.
For detailed guidance on the different types of control, you can use this online tool from Internet Matters. This gives you the chance to set up a personalised list of the controls used in your home on all your different devices. There is also advice on how to use all the various controls, with videos and step-by-step instructions.
What can controls be used for?
Controls can either be for a device like a games console, or for a network such as your home broadband.
The way to access device controls can vary according to the manufacturer. They can offer varying types of protection, from filtering out adult content from search results to preventing your child from buying things when playing games. You can usually find instructions on how to set these controls up on the manufacturer's website or use the Internet Matters app for help.
These settings will apply whether the device is being used in your home outside – but it's easy for them to be switched off, so talk to your child about trust and responsibility, making sure they understand the importance of why you have put the settings in place.
Most games consoles come with settings, which can be put in place for either the device itself or the games platform. It's easy to forget that games consoles allow players to connect to the internet and talk to people all over the world so setting controls on devices and the platform itself (such as XBox) is important.
Broadband and network filters generally come free with your service. These can be used to prevent material coming into your home. For example, you could restrict anything with a horror or sexual content being accessible via your home broadband. Instructions for accessing these filters can be found on the service provider's websites – look at the bottom of the page to find the "help" or "security" page.
Search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing allow users to filter out certain types of search results. This means you can reduce the risk of your child seeing adult content like pornography, or set limits on the time they spend online. Look for the cogwheel “settings” symbol where you will find the options for each provider. You can also encourage your child to use safer search facilities, such as SafeSearch Kids from Google.
Social media and other websites
As with search engines, social media and sites like YouTube have privacy and security settings. These can prevent your child from being contacted by strangers or from seeing inappropriate material. It is important to remember that content filters can't prevent other people from sending offensive or inappropriate messages or comments to your child's account, so controlling who can contact your child is a key step.
It is also possible to buy filter programmes. These can be either solely for filtering purposes, but some virus protection software also offer filtering options.