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Smart TVs

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

 

Top 3 tips to take away:

  1. Talk with your child about responsible use of their smart TV – 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 leave the room and tell an adult. See below for conversation starter ideas.
  2. Explore parental controls, both on the TV 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 TV. Will it be used in a shared family space or in a bedroom? Think about: setting time limits; restricting inappropriate content; and encouraging them to come to you with any worries.

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

  • Why do you want to get a smart TV? / What do you like about the TV?
  • What do young people your age like to watch on smart TVs?
  • What is your favourite thing to do/watch on the TV? What can we do as a family to help you use the TV safely?
  • Are there things you use the TV for apart from watching videos or TV programmes?
  • What would you do if something worrying or upsetting happened on the TV?
  • (If there is a problem) Can you explain to me how it happened so we can fix it together?

FAQs

What can a smart TV be used for?

As well as watching TV, they can be used to browse the internet, download and use apps such as YouTube, access video=on-demand services such as BBC iPlayer and use streaming services such as Netflix. Be aware that some streaming services allow content to be rented or purchased for a fee.

Research found that children were twice as likely to watch TV programmes on video-on-demand than live TV (Ofcom, 2021).

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

There is no official or recommended age for a child to use a smart TV. Films and some television programmes have individual age recommendations. For more info on film age ratings visit the BBFC.

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 smart TV in safe way?

Watching TV, films and videos with your children is a fun way to familiarise yourself with your smart TV, how it works and how they like to use it. Using the TV together can be a great way to model responsible and positive use of technology, showing your child how to use it safely when they use it independently.

Explore the parental controls on offer and set up boundaries with your child around how you expect them to use the TV. Make sure you give them 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, smart TVs have both benefits and risks. Many of the risks depend on how the TV is being used and the apps that are installed. For example, if it is being used for watching online videos, this could introduce a risk of inappropriate content.

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

  • Accessing inappropriate content
  • Spending too much money
  • Excessive screen time

 

What can I do to manage the risks?

Parental controls can help you limit potential risks by setting age restrictions for apps, password protection for adult content or restricting in-app purchasing. You may be able to set up individual child profiles with specific safety features for different services.

For guidance on how to set parental controls on entertainment services and streaming services, see Internet Matters’ step-by-step instructions for each provider.

Keep talking with your child about how they are using the TV and take an interest in the things they like to watch. 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 smart TV?

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

If this is not possible, sign out of all the apps available, and sign back in using your own details so you can set up parental controls that are most appropriate for your family.

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, review your parental controls. If you believe your child has viewed TV or on-demand programmes that are harmful you can report this to Ofcom, the media regulator in the UK. For more information on making a report on other online services, visit the Childnet website.

For help for on specific problems, see the following advice on screen timeparental controls, in-app purchases, cyberbullyinggroomingsexting, and digital wellbeing.