Keeping children safe on apps and online games

boys on smartphones

Online safety is a huge issue, especially as children get older and become increasingly tech-savvy. In order to stay one step ahead, it's important to understand the apps they use and where the potential pitfalls lie.

Read on to find out how Mumsnet users keep their children and teenagers safe online.

Popular children's apps

From toddler games to teenage social sharing, here are the apps currently being downloaded most by Mumsnet users' children

toddler on laptop and phone

“The Sky Kids app has everything my eight-year-old daughter needs – all in one place. She can play games and watch her favourite tv shows whenever she likes. It's so easy to use, even my 21-month-old daughter can navigate her way to her favourite shows.”

“My eldest is obsessed with Animal Jam. You can control it via a parent account. It's made by National Geographic so it has lots of animal facts incorporated into the mini games."

“My three-year-old loves the Fisher Price app."

“My four-year-old loves the Skyscanner app! Whenever an aeroplane is overhead he can say what type it is, where it's come from and where it's going.”

“My son (aged 7) loves Minecraft but only plays by himself, not over a network.”

“Love those TocaBoca games – we have the hair studio, tea party and doctor one.”

“Number Bonds by Thinkout. It uses a rocket to teach children how number bonds work. It is visual maths and very intuitive.”

“Mine seems to love the Easy Xylo xylophone app. I’m not sure how much anyone else enjoys a tuneless toddler bashing on a xylophone, but it keeps him happy enough on the bus home.”

“YouTube is the most popular app in this house. It's only allowed downstairs when an adult is in the room and the volume has to be high enough that we can hear it. It's so easy to go from a suitable video to a totally inappropriate video in one click.”

Sharing and social media

As grown-ups we're probably all a little guilty of spending more time on Mumsnet social media than we ought to. But monitoring pre-teen and teenage activity on social is key, with the degree of interference needed often depending on the maturity of the child.

“My 13-year-old son has had Instagram for the past two years and WhatsApp this year. I monitor his Instagram account through being a follower, and limit his access to all apps through KidsLock, an app which allows me to set daily limits and schedules on his phone.”

“My 17-year-old has Twitter and an iPhone. She's sensible, so I don't need to monitor her activity. But my 12-year-old isn't allowed to use social media.”

“My nine and seven-year-old boys use a game about building dens with a 'chat' feature which I'm super scared of them using in case they get roped into conversation by adults. To warn them I showed them on there how I could send them a message from 'seven-year-old Danny', when actually it was me.”

“My daughter knows that at any point we can look at what she is doing. We have had chats about strangers and she keeps to the friends she has in the real world. Social media is limited to her friends and family. She does not accept friend requests from unknown people and I am a friend on her accounts.”

“Doing ‘spot checks’ is one way to ensure they are staying safe, but whatever you do, don't join in.”

“Talk, listen, show interest. If you are on their social media, respect their space. By all means read, but don't comment unnecessarily and don't embarrass them!"

Mumsnetters' top tips for being app savvy

  • Make sure you set up parental controls on the devices your children use.
  • Disabling ‘in-app’ purchases is a must for avoiding any unexpected, hefty bills.
  • For very little ones playing games on tablets, you can always disconnect it from the internet. This way you can be sure they aren’t looking at anything they’re not supposed to be.
  • By sharing devices among the family, you can cut down the time they spend online and discreetly keep an eye on what they've been looking at when it's your turn to use the device.
  • Talk openly and honestly about social media sites, how they add friends and issues around chatting online. If children are aware of the dangers they will be more likely to flag up situations that may make them uncomfortable.