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Keep your kids safe online this Christmas

Kids want freedom, but we want them to stay safe. Here are some top tips for protecting them when buying their first phone.

Buying your child their first smartphone this Christmas? Chances are that they'll love it – but you'll have concerns about letting them loose online. Now, O2 and the NSPCC have teamed up to guide you through everything you need to know about online safety. Here's their top five tips…

Educate yourself

From vlogging to Snapchatting to ghosting, it can feel like our kids are talking a different language. So learn it! Familiarise yourself with their social media apps, the jargon they throw around, the games they play and the YouTubers that they follow. That way, you'll know more about the risks and potential problems they might encounter. The NSPCC's NetAware site is a great place to start: it's got information on everything from Facebook to Flipagram.

Make the most of your provider's safety services

Most of the main service providers have lots of safety features. That might include: notifications if they want to buy or install apps or buy in-app content, parental controls on internet sites they look at or content they can download (such as TV shows and films), or blocking contacts. Get in touch with your provider beforehand to find out what they offer. If you're an O2 customer, find out how to do it here.

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Use apps to track your kids' online use

There are plenty of apps and services that will help you see exactly where your kids go online. Norton Family Premier, for example, costs just $49.99 a year, supports both Android and Apple phones. It shows you what kids are doing online, how long they spend online, and allows you to set time limits. Qustodio is the best of the free apps – again, it supports both main smartphones, and tracks where your kids are going online.

Set simple rules

Don't overwhelm kids with advice and rules. Instead, sit down with your child and come up with a simple set of rules. For example, one might be: 'You can use your phone between five and six pm.' Then, think around privacy: 'Never give out your real name, address or email to anyone'. Sharing is a big issue: 'Never take a photo of yourself and share it.' And your final rule might be, simply: 'If you feel worried about anything you see online, you must tell Mum or Dad straight away – you won't get into trouble!'

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Talk to them

Kids love to talk about what's going on in their lives. Start a conversation: what might they do if they see something that makes you feel uncomfortable online? What should they do if someone asks them for something they don't want to share, like a picture or information about where they live? What kind of sites or apps do they like? Make a list and go through it together so you can decide together what's OK and what isn't. Help your kids feel that they can talk to you about anything they see or do online without getting into trouble. For guidance on how to get the conversation going, check out Share Aware – no-nonsense online safety advice from the NSPCC and O2