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What are broadband parental controls?

Parental controls: How to keep your child safe online

Vanessa Tsai
Written by  Vanessa Tsai
Kim Staples
Reviewed by  Kim Staples
5 min read
Updated: 15 Dec 2023

With children spending more time connected to the internet, it’s important that they stay safe online and understand how to use the internet responsibly. Broadband parental controls can be a handy way of protecting your children from harmful sites – particularly if they’re young.

Ofcom’s 2022 report, Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes, showed that 97% of homes with children aged 0-18 had access to internet – higher than the average of 93% of UK households. 96% of children watched videos on online video-sharing platforms like YouTube or TikTok, while the use of social media sites like WhatsApp and Snapchat had increased since 2021.

Though there are plenty of benefits of your child being online, such as learning and staying connected to friends, there are also some considerations to be wary of. Indeed, the Ofcom report showed that the most common concerns among parents were their children coming across inappropriate content (75%) or ‘adult’ content (73%).

Ofcom’s recent Online Safety Act addresses this concern, ensuring tech firms and online platforms have moderating systems and processes in place to deal with harmful material. Nevertheless, you may be wondering what you can do to better monitor your kid’s access to the internet. If so, broadband parental controls may be the answer.

What are broadband parental controls?

Broadband parental controls let you manage what your children can and cannot access online, as well as letting you monitor their internet usage – for example, what websites they’re visiting.

When used correctly, they can help protect your children against inappropriate websites and reduce the risk of them stumbling across potentially harmful content.

However, it’s important to discuss why you’re implementing parental controls with your children first, particularly if they’re older. It’s also well worth talking about best practices when it comes to safe and responsible internet usage, too, so your child knows the importance of staying safe online.

Mum with child on laptop

What features do broadband parental controls have?

Depending on your broadband provider and the internet safety tools it offers, the features of your broadband parental controls can vary. Still, most will have the following:

  • Content filters – These help you reduce the risk of your child coming across inappropriate content on the internet. Some filters also let you set different age limits, so you can increase the level of protection for younger children

  • Screen time limits – As well as protecting your children from harmful content, parental controls also let you control how much time they can spend online. For example, you can set specific times for internet use, as well as restrict access to particular websites depending on the time of the day

  • Monitoring usage – This lets you keep an eye on the sites your children have been visiting, as well as how they’ve been using them. It can be useful for checking whether a website is appropriate or not

  • Controls for certain websites – Websites like Google, YouTube and Netflix let you turn on a kid-friendly filter that only shows content suitable for children

How do I set up broadband parental controls?

Broadband parental controls are quite straightforward to set up. You should be able to do so via your broadband provider, in the settings on your child’s devices, or in the settings of specific apps and web browsers.

You may also want to turn off in-app purchases on your phone or tablet, which you can do in the device’s settings. That way, you’ll prevent your child from accidentally racking up a large bill when using your device to play with their favourite apps.

Many broadband providers offer free parental controls with their plans, including: BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media, Plusnet and Vodafone. These can be very handy, as you can place controls across all your child’s devices that are connected to the home Wi-Fi. Some let you easily manage your controls via an app.

If you’re looking to keep an eye out on your kid’s internet activity, it’s well worth getting a broadband deal that comes with parental controls.

What other ways can my child stay safe online?

As well as using broadband controls to protect your child from harmful material, it’s important to encourage an understanding of responsible internet usage. That way, they can continue to stay safe when using Wi-Fi away from home (and your watchful eyes).

Some things to discuss with your child include:

  • Online scams – There’s an increasing number of scams to watch out for, such as phishing emails, fake websites and fraudulent texts. While it’s hard to list out every type of scam out there, you can teach them what to look out for, as well as how to keep information safe, such as using strong passwords. Our guide to scams has more info

  • Staying safe on social media – The 2022 Ofcom report showed that 23% of children claimed to be confident in identifying what is real or fake online, but could not correctly identify a fake social media profile when presented with one. It’s important for children to be aware of stranger danger and to be cautious when talking to people online

  • Sharing personal information – To protect your child from the two situations above, make sure your child knows not to post sensitive information online, such as phone numbers, addresses, and card details

  • Malware – Any software that’s designed to harm your computer and/or steal sensitive information from your device is malware. Teach your child to think twice before clicking suspicious links or downloading random files, as well as keeping your devices updated and using antivirus software

Remember, it’s a good idea to regularly talk with your child about online safety. By being open and having a two-way discussion about the internet, your child will develop better knowledge of how to protect themselves on the internet. Not to mention, they’ll feel more comfortable coming to you if they ever experience any problems.