In today’s world, phones and tablets are used around babies and children on a daily basis. It’s understandable that kids will pick up devices and interact independently, but new guidelines have warned against so much ‘free play’ for children.

Commenting on Safer Internet Day (Tuesday 11 February) Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“The internet is a powerful tool for learning but we need to be mindful of the risks. 

Totally unsupervised use of smart phones and other internet-enabled devices, especially for younger or first-time users, is not recommended.

“Families should avoid ‘leaving children to their own devices’. Parents and carers should be aware of what they are viewing and who they are interacting with. We want young people to be informed consumers of this technology, safe enough to surf the internet without fear and smart enough to know what to do if they see inappropriate content.

“We would never suggest that parents completely avoid buying smartphones, tablets or games consoles but we would urge them to think carefully about what is right for their child and to talk to them about what boundaries and permissions will be set.”

NAHT has suggested five essential steps for families so that they are as ‘switched on’ as possible when it comes to keeping children safe online:

  • Make sure your children feel confident they can come to you if they need help or are unsure about anything that happens online. 
  • Have open and open regular conversations with your children about technology and their use of it. Agree a set of family rules, including around screen time.
  • Check the capabilities of the devices your child uses including toys. Does it have internet access? Can it be used to communicate with others?
  • Be aware of and follow the age requirements of many social media apps and services, as well as games.
  • Help your child get started. Find out what safety tools or parental controls are available, and how they work and set them up as appropriate. For younger children, supervise their use. 

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