When Setting Up Your Child’s Device Avoid These 5 Mistakes


“Setting up your child’s device in today’s digital world is a crucial task for parents. Protecting your child from online dangers is more vital than ever. Their shiny new tablet or smartphone represents possibility and potential, but also peril if you don’t take proper precautions.”

From cyberbullying to explicit content to predators, the internet poses hazards that children lack the maturity and judgement to navigate alone. Just ask Jessica’s parents – at only 9 years old, she was distraught after clicking a deceptive pop-up ad that exposed her to inappropriate adult content.

Unfortunately Jessica’s experience is all too common, with 1 in 3 kids encountering inappropriate content online according to Internet Matters. Handing your child their first internet-connected device is an exciting milestone, but one that requires care and vigilance.

This guide will explore the top mistakes parents make when setting up their child’s device, and how you can avoid them. Follow these tips to help maximize online safety as your child ventures into the digital world.

Why Proper Device Setup Matters

Children’s devices demand extra caution given unrestricted internet access and minimal supervision. Improper device configuration also exposes kids to amplified risks of:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Predatory contact
  • Exposure to violent, explicit or age-inappropriate content
  • Excessive recreational screen time that disrupts healthy development

The stakes are high, with 71% of teens reporting that digital drama worsens school stress according to McAfee. Screen overuse also directly correlates with poorer mental health outcomes in youth according to researchers at San Diego State University.

As a conscientious parent, you carry the responsibility to safeguard children from digital dangers through proper device setup and restrictions. Now let’s review the key pitfalls to avoid as you embark on this vital process.

Mistake #1 – Not Setting Up Parental Controls

Parental control tools allow you to actively manage and filter your child’s device usage. Key capabilities include:

  • Blocking inappropriate apps and content
  • Establishing screen time limits
  • Enabling web filters to block illicit sites
  • Tracking browsing history, chats and location

Yet around 50% of parents fail to activate parental controls on their child’s device according to Internet Matters. Why the oversight? Some common misconceptions:

“It Invades Their Privacy”

Respecting privacy is important. But granting unfiltered access equates to letting kids roam unsupervised, which is irresponsible. Parental tools simply exercise your duty as a parent to ensure safety.

“My Child is Responsible Enough”

That may be true, but it’s about shielding kids from unintended exposure. Controls also protect when devices are borrowed by friends or siblings.

“It’s Too Complex for Me”

Modern parental control apps feature intuitive interfaces and simplified instructions. For example:

  • App dashboard for managing child device usage
  • Pre-configured age-appropriate settings
  • Detailed onboarding checklists

Research top parental control apps like Bark, Qustodio and Boomerang to find one fitting your OS and needs. The minimal effort is worth protecting your child.

Communicating About Parental Controls

When installing controls, explain they are for guarding against potential harms from strangers online. Some talking points:

  • Discuss openly and encourage questions
  • Frame controls as protection, not punishment
  • Involve your child in setting appropriate time limits
  • Share your own tips for avoiding dangerous content

Open communication preserves trust while keeping your kid safe online.

Mistake #2 – Using Identical Passcodes

Sharing your passcode gives children access to:

  • Your private emails, messages and accounts
  • Saved payment information
  • Mature or inappropriate content

Just one peek while you’re away opens the door to major risks.

Instead, create a unique secure passcode just for your child’s device. Ensure they understand not to share it with others. For younger kids, use biometric unlocking like fingerprint or face ID instead of a passcode combination that’s easier to disclose.

Maintaining separate passcodes keeps your personal data secure and prevents unsupervised access on your device.

Mistake #3 – Not Enabling Family Sharing

Family sharing settings like Apple’s Family Sharing allow you to:

  • Share purchases from your accounts
  • Control spending with allowances
  • Manage and restrict screen time
  • Conceal your location from kids

Activation takes just minutes in your device settings or account dashboard. Consider signing up for:

  • Apple Family Sharing
  • Google Family Link
  • Amazon Households

Family sharing enables oversight and simplifies device management for busy parents.

Mistake #4 – No Limits on Screen Time

It’s tempting to let kids play games and binge videos endlessly as a distraction. But excessive recreational screen use has consequences:

Physical effects:

  • Obesity
  • Sleep disruption
  • Eye strain

Psychological effects:

  • ADHD
  • Depression
  • Impaired learning

Recommended limits from experts:

  • 1 hour per day maximum for kids 2-5 years old
  • A few hours for ages 6+, prioritizing educational activities

Curb the adverse impacts of technology overuse. All devices offer parental controls to constrain usage, like iOS Screen Time and Android Family Link.

Tailoring Limits by Age

Ideal limits vary by age. Some guidelines:

  • Under 2 years: No screen time outside video chatting.
  • 3 to 5 years: 1 hour a day of high-quality programs.
  • 6 to 10 years: Consistent limits of 1-2 hours for recreation.
  • Over 10 years: Restrict evening use and set moderation guidelines.

Adjust controls appropriately as your child matures to encourage healthy long-term screen habits.

Mistake #5 – Not Monitoring Their Activity

Tracking your kid’s digital activity doesn’t make you a helicopter parent – it makes you a responsible one.

Too often headlines emerge on cyberbullying, predators and mental health issues enabled by devices. For example:

  • A 14-year old took her own life after relentless cyberbullying.
  • A 14-year old was groomed online and murdered by a predator.

Stay alert about who your child interacts with online. Review texts, emails, browsing history and apps using parental monitoring tools like mobicip and Norton Family Premier.

As technical executive John Carr says, “Monitoring solutions are a necessary part of modern, responsible parenting.”

Balance your kid’s privacy with the greater duty to shield them from harm. Remember that sobering statistics prove why monitoring matters more than ever.

Discussing Monitoring with Your Child

When enabling monitoring tools, have an open discussion emphasizing that it comes from a place of love – not mistrust. Some talking points:

  • “This helps me make sure strangers don’t contact you online.”
  • “You can always come talk to me if you’re uncomfortable with anything you see.”
  • “There will be no sudden loss of privileges or overreacting on my part.”
  • “This is meant to open up our communication, not replace it.”

Handling monitoring properly preserves trust while protecting your child in the digital age.

Key Takeaways for Parents

Handing your child their first device warrants exceptional care to avoid common but critical mistakes like:

  • Not setting up parental controls upfront.
  • Using identical passcodes on your child’s device.
  • Skipping family sharing features.
  • Allowing unlimited recreational screen time.
  • Failing to monitor your child’s digital activities.

With attentive device setup and restrictions, you can shield your child from inappropriate content and predatory risks until they mature into responsible digital citizens themselves.

Research parental control tools tailored for your OS, and lean on them to ensure your child’s device use is healthy and safe.

Want a hand optimizing controls for your child’s needs? Download our free parental controls toolkit with tailored guides, recommendations and customization tips.

And please share your own device setup tips and experiences in the comments below!

Additional Resources on Child Safety:

Keeping Kids Safe in Today’s World

Child Internet Safety Guide for Parents

Online Child Protection Resources

Chatting with Kids about Being Online Booklet

Want a hand optimizing controls for your child’s needs? Download our free parental controls toolkit with tailored guides, recommendations and customization tips.

And share your own device setup tips and experiences in the comments below!