Give safe gifts this Christmas

Many children and young people will be given the latest gadgets such as tablets, smart phones and games consoles this Christmas.

The internet and all it can offer, is a wonderful tool for keeping in touch with friends and family, however parents and carers need to be aware that it is possible for people who are unknown to children and young people to communicate with them via the internet.

Here are some things to consider if you are buying a piece of technology for a child or young person this Christmas.


Buying a mobile phone for a child or young person?

When purchasing a mobile for a child or young person ask the store assistant if they can set parental security settings on the device for you. Many stores provide this service free of charge.

You can also find step by step instructions for setting security settings on mobile phone provider websites.

Setting the security settings on the mobile before you wrap the present will help to keep your child safe when they're online.

Most mobile phone providers also offer free parental control services. These limit the content children can access at home, via the mobile network, to items suitable for under 18s.These settings might not be automatically switched on, so check with your service provider and ask them to do this for you. 


Buying a game for a child or young person?

All games released in the UK will have PEGI ratings on the packaging; 3,7,12,16 or 18 meaning that games rated as such should not be played by persons below those respective age bars. Next to the age rating there are also pictograms to explain why the rating was awarded.

When purchasing a game for your child, always check the PEGI certification.  The PEGI system is designed to inform you of what’s suitable and what’s not, for different ages.

Many of the popular games have 18 PEGI ratings. Content within these games could potentially be harmful, frightening or worrying for young children. Check the PEGI rating before you buy a game for a child to check that it is age appropriate.


Buying a games console for a child or young person?

You might not realise that even games consoles such as the Xbox and PlayStation, are connected to the internet and can be used for communicating as well as playing games. Don’t forget that you can also set parental controls on these devices too. is a fantastic resource for advice on gaming as a family.  The website provides an overview of the most popular games as well as helpful advice for parents and family members.

Encourage your child to talk to you about the games they play and how they feel after playing them. Children are sometimes frightened by games but won’t tell anyone in case they take the game away. Whilst children are still learning to distinguish between reality and fantasy, it’s important to talk to them about what they see in gaming.

If you introduce boundaries at home about what type of games your child is allowed to play, don't forget to communicate them to all family members and child carers.

Remember to set the security settings on all the devices that your child uses, including those devices that belong to other family members. Setting parental controls will help to keep your child safe while they are online by:

  • Blocking inappropriate content 
  • Limiting in-app purchases
  • Managing which apps children are allowed to download.

You should also activate the privacy settings on each app that your child uses, as well as ensuring that location sharing is ‘off’ on their device. Here is a list of the most popular social media apps that your child may use:


Facebook icon Facebook is currently the largest social networking site in the world with over 2 billion active users. It allows users to connect and share with their family and friends online. Users create their own profile page which they can regularly update.

Facebook Messenger allows users to chat either one to one or in groups. 

Facebook rules

Report to Facebook

Facebook safety centre - for instructions on applying security settings


Snapchat is the fastest growing social media app with users sharing photos, videos, and text. The ‘snap’ is on screen for up to 10 seconds before disappearing, or there is an option to have no time limit. There’s also a feature called Snapchat Story that lets you share snaps in a sequence for up to 24 hours.

Snapchat rules

Report to Snapchat

Snapchat safety centre - for instructions on applying security settings

Instagram logo

Instagram is a free photo and video sharing app available on Apple iOS, Android and Windows Phone. People can upload photos or videos to our service and share them with their followers or with a select group of friends. As with all the apps above, users can view, comment and like posts shared by their friends.

Instagram rules

Report to Instagram

Instagram safety centre - for instructions on applying security settings

YouTube is a free video sharing website that makes it easy to watch online videos. Users can also create and upload their own videos to share with others.  Every minute of every day, more than 35 hours of video is uploaded.

Read YouTube rules

Report to YouTube

YouTube safety centre - for instructions on applying security settings.


Talking to your child about staying safe online

Parental controls and security settings are not 100% accurate and are no substitute for open and honest conversations with your child. It's important to explain, especially to younger children, what is meant by ‘inappropriate,’ by using language they will understand. Make sure they know that if something they see online upsets them or makes them worried, then they should always come to you.

Regularly have open and honest conversations about:

  • What they are doing online and who they are talking to.
  • Remind them of the importance of not talking to or accepting friend requests from people they don’t know in real life.
  • Encourage them to keep all personal information such as passwords, phone numbers, friend, school address details private.
  • Remind them that people might not be who they say they are online.  It is very easy for people to set up accounts, with fake names, identities and photos, to make us all believe that they are someone they are not.
  • Warn them that the things they write and the photos they post online might be accessed by people other than their friends, if they don’t keep their accounts private.
  • Highlight the risks of meeting people in person that your child only knows online. Meeting people in real life, that children and young people only know from being online, can pose many risks and children and young people should be encouraged  to be open and honest with you or a trusted adult, if someone is asking to meet up with them in real life. (This can be very dangerous and children and young people should be encouraged to tell their parents or an adult they trust, if someone is asking to meet them.)


How to report an online concern

If something has happened to your child online you can make a report to the National Crime Agency for Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP). CEOP helps keep children and young people safe from sexual abuse and grooming online, as well as their parents and carers.

If you’re worried that your child is being groomed online or sexually exploited you should report your concerns via the CEOP website.

You should always report if your child is or has been in contact with someone who is:

  • Chatting online to your child about sex
  • Asking them to do sexual things on webcam
  • Asking to meet up if they’ve only met them online
  • Requesting sexual pictures
  • Forcing them into sexual activity
  • Making them feel unsafe

A guide for parents of children and young people who have got in trouble online

LSCP Give a safe gift for christmas