Children and young people use a range of devices to connect to the internet, play games and communicate. These include:
- Mobile devices
- Personal devices
- Gaming devices
A mobile device is an electronic device which allows for voice or data communication, such as mobile phones and smartphones.
The increasing use of smartphones has also resulted in the growth of apps which can be downloaded by users to their phone.
Apps, short for ‘Applications’, can provide access to a range of functions and activities directly on your phone. You can learn more about apps in the section below.
Benefits of mobile devices
Young people are able to be constantly ‘connected’ through their mobile devices. They can communicate with each other, look up information, and share content in real time, whether they are at home, school and anywhere else. Mobile devices can also help parents and carers to stay in contact with young people in their care.
Challenges of mobile devices
Any device or app when used incorrectly has the potential to cause harm.
It is important that you speak to your child about how they are using the device or application and the legal and ethical ramifications of inappropriate use. They also need to be aware of the dangers of communicating with people they don’t know, and exposing their location through mobile device technology such as geotagging.
Most of the challenges young people face with mobile phone relate to their privacy and security, online safety, relationships and reputation. You can find more information about overcoming these challenges throughout this website.
A personal device is piece of electronic equipment that is generally small and easy to carry, such as a laptop computer, or tablet. These devices are commonly used for personal, work and school purposes. They can generally connect to the internet (either via wireless or cellular networks), access various apps (including messaging and social media), and often have the ability to take pictures and record videos.
Benefits of personal devices
Personal devices are great productivity tools. Many schools are starting to embrace a more modern technological savvy environment. This includes initiatives like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), whereby students use their own devices to tap into the school network. Personal devices such as laptops and tablets allow the students to have their textbooks and resources with them in a compact and easily transportable format. The days of struggling with a backpack overloaded with books are well and truly behind us!
Challenges of personal devices
The challenges presented with personal devices are much the same as with mobile devices. Personal devices however, can often be more powerful, and have more storage capacity. They are often used more for productivity type work, like homework, as well as online banking and other activities. This can pose a problem in relation to the amount of data they can hold and potentially be more susceptible to hacking. It’s important to ensure that the device has updates installed and up to date antivirus software.
Online gaming can take place through devices which can connect to the internet such as a computer, tablet, smartphone, gaming console (e.g. Xbox, PlayStation) or portable gaming device (e.g. PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS).
More information on gaming can be found in the section bellow.
Social media refers to range of websites and applications that allows users to create a personalised profile to communicate and engage with others online. This is also known as social networking.
A person’s profile on social media will usually include personal information about them – their name, interests, ideas and sometimes where they work, go to school or the city or town they live in.
Once a person has set up a profile, they can ‘build’ their social network by accepting ‘friends’ or ‘following’ people on the sites they use.
They can communicate and share personal information, photos and other content with other users.
Some of the most popular social media sites and apps for young people include:
- Facebook – the most popular social networking site which enables people to easily communicate with each other, share photos, videos and other content and compare your likes and dislikes
- Twitter – a social messaging tool where people share short messages or status updates known as ‘tweets’ that can be read by people following them
- Instagram – a photo sharing site
- YouTube – a popular free video-sharing website where people can watch and upload clips online
- Snapchat – popular mobile app for sharing videos and pictures
- Kik Messenger
Most social media apps now have a ‘go live’ feature, allowing anyone to start broadcasting.
Users can view any broadcasts from anyone in the world and share information in real time.
Some apps allow users to chat, read viewers comments and respond verbally or visually.
Benefits of social networking
Social networking provides many benefits to young people. It allows them to connect with friends and family, share photos and videos, play games and socialise.
Social networking plays an integral role in developing a young person’s social identity and can be particularly beneficial for those who may be isolated or more introverted.
Research suggests that interpersonal relationships may also be strengthened by communicating online.
Social networking can also help children and young people develop important digital literacy skills to help them safely participate and navigate through the digital environment. They can develop an understanding of the social norms and rules of online interactions and how to manage their privacy.
Challenges of social networking
The greatest challenges for young people on social media is staying in control of their personal information and privacy and managing their relationships with other users.
Issues may arise when young people accept ‘followers’ they don’t know offline.
If you’re live broadcasting think about your surroundings and identifying features that could give away your name and location.
If you have your location set during a live broadcast it might be possible for other users to work out exactly where you are – check out our page on Geotagging to find out more about location settings.
- Know who your child is friends with online
- Be wary of friend/follower requests from people you don’t know
- Talk to your child about what personal information should and should not be shared online
- Ensure secure privacy settings are enabled on your child’s social networking accounts
- Be aware of how to block and report users/pages/groups
- Know how and where to get help on the various sites and apps your child is using
- Visit our resources hub for factsheets on the most common social media sites
Gaming can be a great way for young people to have fun on their devices.
Games can help children and young people learn to problem-solve, collaborate with others, grow their confidence and even encourage creativity, particularly in games such as Minecraft where they can build their own ‘digital world’.
Many games are now played online, allowing gamers to interact and compete with people from all over the world.
Players can talk to one another through instant messaging, chat rooms and voice communication using headsets.
Among the most popular online games are massive multi-player online role-playing games. These games involve a large number of players participating in an online, virtual world. Players are represented by fictional characters (known as ‘avatars’) they create and control.
Some games are free to play, while others allow users to purchase and download software or pay a subscription fee. Some people also purchase and trade cheats and gaming credits.
Gaming apps on mobile devices can also be downloaded for free or a small fee, but be aware of in-app purchases.
Before you start …
In most cases, online gaming is fun and safe for young people.
However, parents should be aware that young people might be exposed to different social environments if playing games in public forums.
The most important thing is that young people should be aware of is the personal information they share that could identify them, this could include:
- Voice – if using microphones
- Image – if using webcams
- Real name, age or location if this is in your username
- Social networking accounts – if gaming profiles are linked
It’s important to stop and think about the personal information you’re giving out while gaming; especially with people you don’t know offline.
There have been instances of online grooming through gaming sites, with predators using chatrooms or direct message features to contact young people.
As with any competitive environment, young people might also be exposed to aggression or hostile communication by other players. Other players might feel the internet provides them with anonymity to abuse others.
Young people might be also exposed to inappropriate content, discussions or language if playing on public servers.
The average gamer in Australia is a 32 year-old-male, so much of the gaming industry is targeted at this age group.
Video games have classifications just like movies and TV shows and these should be considered when deciding if a game is suitable for your child.
- Talk to your children about what games they’re playing online
- Know who your children interacting with while playing online games
- Consider turning off direct message and chat features if they’re not required for the game
- Encourage your child to avoid sharing personal information such as their name, where they live or the school they attend
- Avoid using microphones, webcams or other identifying features if not playing with friends you know and trust
- Ensure your child chooses a username or avatar that doesn’t identify their personal information (e.g. age or location).
Apps (short for ‘Applications’) are programs which can be downloaded onto smartphones, tablets, computers and other electronic devices which access the internet. If your child has access to a smartphone, chances are they have downloaded an app.
They can be used to social network, access news and information, conduct banking, provide lifestyle tips or even book travel – their functions are endless!
Many of the most popular websites and social networking sites are also available as an app.
Some apps are free, while others need to be purchased or will have additional features that users will need to pay a fee to access. However, it’s important to remember that there can be greater security risks involved in using free apps as they often want access to more of your personal information and data as a trade-off.
Some examples of apps include:
- Google Maps
- Candy Crush
Security and safety
There are several security and safety challenges relating to apps:
- Official stores - It’s important that you only download apps from the official stores, such as Apple’s App Store or the Android marketplace. Apps from these stores have been assessed to meet the requirements of the operating system.
- Free or low-cost versions of apps - Many popular apps will have an option of downloading the free version, or paying an additional fee for a full or premium version. Free or low-cost apps may be pirated and repackaged to contain malicious code. Downloading apps from illegitimate sources could leave your device vulnerable to malware and your personal information at greater risk.
- Classification - Apps for most smart phones use a classification system to determine the appropriate age group for using the app. Refer to your device’s official app store for more information about their age classifications.
- Reviews - Before downloading an app, we recommend that you look at user reviews to see what other user may have identified as an issue or concern. This can be useful when deciding whether to download an app or not.
Additionally, there are websites which provide reviews from a parent or educator perspective. These reviews highlight any content or privacy concerns and advise which age groups the app is suitable for, which may differ from the app’s actual rating.
- Parental controls - Some smartphones allow for parental controls to be set to restrict the downloading off apps. This may be useful for younger children who are either using your phone, or have just been given their own device.
For more information on parental controls, visit the support site of your phone or refer to the Parental Control Guides.
- Cost - Some apps are free which can make them quite appealing to children and young people. Many apps must be purchased using a credit card or gift card and it’s important that you discuss the app with your child before helping them to purchase it.
- Advertising - Many apps which are free to download will contain advertising. Often the user’s personal information, like and dislikes, and online browsing history which can be accessed by the app will then be used by third-party advertisers so they can more effectively target potential customers.
- Privacy - You should be aware of the privacy policies for all apps you and your child are using. For an app to be made available for download via an official store, app developers must adhere to relevant privacy laws in relation to the use of personal information of users. However, not every app is checked by a third-party to ensure that they meet this requirement.
- Internet access- When downloading an app, it’s important to determine whether it will require ongoing internet access. Some apps do not need internet access once downloaded and can be used by devices without being connected to the internet. Other apps cannot function properly without the internet.
If you or your child is using an app which requires ongoing internet access, be aware of how this will affect your data allowance as it can be very expensive once you have gone above your set download limit.
- Updates - Apps will provide updates which are intended to improve performance, mitigate security concerns or provide new features. It is important to install these updates so that the safest and most reliable version of the app is being used on your child’s device.
- Research or download the apps your child uses so that you become familiar with the activities they are involved in
- Check the classification of apps and that they are suitable for the age of your child
- Only download apps from the official stores
- Before you download and install an app, check which features of your device (particularly the GPS function) the app wants permission to access, and disable any which are unnecessary
- Many apps contain in-app purchases which can quickly add up on your phone bill if not careful. To find out how to disable in-app purchases, refer to your device’s user guide online.
An operating system supports the basic functions of your device, including managing software and memory.
Most of your devices including computers, laptops, mobile phones and tablets use an operating system.
It is important to keep your operating systems updated with the latest version.
Software updates often come with security updates for your device. Updates to your operating system provide you with the latest security updates to protect your computer against malware and security breaches.
These updates also allow your computer to run new features to improve performance.
Most operating systems allow you the option of turning on automatic updates. You might already get notifications from your computer or device when there’s an update you need to download.
Automatic updates will assist you in ensuring that your computer has the most recent operating system updates installed and saves you the time and effort of manually checking for updates and installing them on your computer.
If you’re unsure whether you have the latest operating system on your device or you want to set up automatic updates check your settings or device manual.