How to protect this year’s most wanted presents: a guide for parents

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Whilst Santa won’t deliver presents for a few more weeks, Black Friday and the various associated sales have marked the start of the holiday shopping season for parents. High on kids’ wish lists will inevitably be a flagship smartphone this year. Whilst some use their parents’ phones to go online, most children today have their own and are getting younger than ever. So much, so that nearly half of all five to 10-year-olds now have a mobile phone. 

In your desire to get the asked-for smartphone at a bargain price, it is essential not to let your guard down. Unfortunately, scammers come out in full force at this time of year. After all, what better way to get someone to click on a dodgy link than through a ‘never-to-be-repeated’ offer on a hard-to-find smartphone? To check if a deal is trustworthy, type in the retailer’s URL yourself instead of clicking on the link. Also, look for grammar mistakes and verify that the site uses the HTTPS protocol. Finally, do a Google search and check the retailer’s reviews for red flags.

Even if you do manage to bag the desired smartphone from a reputable seller, the danger isn’t over. While getting your child the latest and greatest smartphone will likely garner squeals of delight on Christmas morning, you are handing your child a ticking timebomb if you don’t ensure optimal digital security is installed. For 18 months, ESET telemetry has exposed continuous but leisurely growth of Android threat detections. Whilst macOS detections have declined, there is expected to be a renewed prevalence of threats due to the recent launch of the iPhone 14.

Of course, with new flagship smartphones costing as much as £1000, not everyone can afford one. Getting hold of a second-hand refurbished one can be tempting. However, remember that previously used devices and hand-me-downs might have greater privacy and security risks than new devices, so check them carefully. There is a good guide on how to do so here.

Whether you buy new or refurbished, before you hand over the phone, ensure it is running the latest version of its operating system, as this will provide a certain degree of protection against known vulnerabilities. Next, install a digital security app such as ESET Smart Security. With it, you can prevent your child from being exposed to inappropriate online content by choosing over 20 predefined, age-specific website categories to block.

It is also worth considering some of the smartphone's pre-installed parental controls. They will restrict access to specific features on the device that could cause harm and can be used to prevent children from running up a massive bill on the app store. There is some good advice on setting up parental controls on Internet Matters. For more information about online safety for your kids, visit our free online tool, Digital Matters. 

Whether for the holidays or a birthday, there is no doubt that smartphones can be great presents for inquisitive minds. By taking a little time and adhering to the tips above, you can help give your child a safe space to explore their curiosity.