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Safer Internet Centre

Do you have a cyberbullying or digital safety concern?

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Laptops

Looking for advice on how to support your child in using a laptop safely and responsibly? Read our guide and FAQs below.

Laptops - Top 3 tips to take away:

  1. Talk with your child about responsible use of their laptop – what is okay and not okay to use it for? What are the risks? Tell your child what they should do if something goes wrong while using it. This could be to close the screen and tell an adult. See below for conversation starter ideas.

  2. Explore parental controls, both on the laptop and for your home Wi-Fi. Talk these through with your child too. Parental controls are a helpful tool, but an open conversation with your child is the most important thing.

  3. Think about the location of the laptop. Will it be used in a shared family space or in a bedroom? Think about: setting time limits; reminding your child about the risks of communicating online with people that they do not know; and encouraging them to come to you with any worries.

How to start a conversation with your child about using a laptop safely:

  • Why do you want to get a laptop? / What do you like about your laptop?
  • What do young people your age use their laptops for?
  • What is your favourite thing to do on the laptop?
  • What can we do as a family to help you use your laptop safely?
  • What would you do if something worrying or upsetting happened on your laptop?
  • (If there is a problem) Can you explain to me how it happened so we can fix it together?

FAQs

What can a laptop be used for?

Laptops can browse the internet, send and receive e-mails, create documents. They can also be used for playing games, making videos, creating music, video calls and many more tasks. For young people, they are particularly useful for school work and keeping in touch with friends and family.

At what age should I let my child have their own laptop?

There is no official or recommended age for a child to have their own laptop.

As with any piece of technology, use your judgement to decide if you are happy for your child to use it.

How can I introduce a laptop in safe way?

Using the laptop with your child is a fun way to familiarise yourself with the device, how it works and how they like to use it. A shared device can be a great way to model responsible and positive use of technology, preparing your child for when they use one independently.

Explore the parental controls on offer and set up boundaries with your child around how you expect them to use the laptop. A family agreement can help you have these conversations. Make sure to give your child the confidence to talk to you if anything worries or upset them while using it.

What risks should I be aware of?

Like any piece of technology, laptops have both benefits and risks. Many of the risks depend on how a laptop is being used and the apps that are installed. For example, if it is being used for online gaming, this could introduce a risk of communication with strangers.

There are some key concerns people have about children using laptops in particular:

  • Cyberbullying and harassment from both friends and strangers
  • Unwanted contact from others and strangers
  • Over-sharing personal information, such as your name, location or images
  • Accessing inappropriate content
  • Spending too much money
  • Excessive screen time
  • Behaving inappropriately or unkindly online

What can I do to manage the risks?

Parental controls can help you limit potential risks by setting age limits for apps, creating a list of websites that they are allowed to visit or blocking certain websites. On a shared device, you may be able to set up individual child accounts with specific safety features.

For guidance on how to set parental controls on entertainment services and search engines, you can read Internet Matters’ step-by-step instructions for each provider.

Keep talking with your child about how they are using the laptop and take an interest in the things they use it for. Open conversation lets your child know you are someone they can go with any questions or worries.

You can also visit Childnet’s key topics for specific advice for different risks.

What about inheriting or buying a second hand laptop?

Ensure that any second hand laptop has been restored to its factory settings before letting your child use it. This means deleting all data on the laptop and returning it to the state in which it would have been if purchased brand new. This will avoid the possibility of accessing someone else’s personal information, private messages, photos, accounts, etc. It will also allow you to set up parental controls that are most suitable for your child.

For further information on buying and safely setting up a laptop for your child, please visit Internet Matters’ page on laptops and tablets for children.

What can I do if something goes wrong?

Reassure your child they have done the right thing by telling you and that you are there to listen and help. Try to remain calm and non-judgemental, to help your child feel comfortable in telling you how the issue happened.

Work with your child to report or block any unacceptable behaviour or other users. Contact your child’s school for further support, particularly if it involves cyberbullying between classmates or inappropriate contact from an adult. If you suspect that your child is or has been the subject of inappropriate sexual contact by another person (grooming), report this to Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre at www.ceop.police.uk.

If your child has accessed inappropriate content, you can report this to the site or service it appeared on. Find out how to do this on the Childnet website.

Explore the settings to see if you can limit the risk of it happening again.

For help for on specific problems, see the following advice on screen time, cyberbullying, grooming, sexting, and digital wellbeing.