Considering buying your child a games console this year? Or maybe you’re on the lookout for a mobile phone for your kids. No matter how old they are, there are a few important things to consider when it comes to choosing the right device for your child.
We’ve teamed up with CyberSafeIreland to discover what the best devices for kids are, the best games for kids to play, and how to make sure you’re choosing a device that guarantees both safety and fun.
When is it appropriate to buy devices for kids?
Worrying that your child is the right age for just about anything is a tale as old as time, but the rise of online gaming and communication in recent years can be particularly difficult waters to navigate with your kid.
It’s really up to you as a parent to decide when you want to allow your children to start gaming or communicating with others online (and when you feel they’re mature enough), but we always recommend making sure they’re doing it in a safe, supervised manner.
Know exactly what you are getting into! You can find guides for parental control settings on all device or console manufacturer websites. Research the popular games and apps so that you know in advance what to expect and what the risks are. For games, PEGI is the perfect place for this, and for everything else, Common Sense Media has you covered.
When buying any smart device for kids, a few simple tips can help you set it up properly and make sure they’re using it safely.
Use the parental control settings
Parental controls on devices are designed to keep your kids safe as they use them. They let you control anything from time limits to preventing kids from downloading or playing age-inappropriate games.
It’s always a good idea to check in with kids regularly when they’re using any kind of technology, to ensure they’re not doing anything you’re unhappy with. Check app downloads, screen time and any kind of communication your child has had if their device is connected to the internet.
Play something together
Knowledge is power. And who knows, you may even like it! Get your kids to show you what they are playing and give them a laugh by having a go yourself. Make only playing in shared family spaces the norm also. These approaches will not only help your research, but also allow you to monitor content in an open and trusting way.
Many parents worry about their kids becoming addicted to video games. The simplest way of regulating this is to introduce time limits on how long they play for, or how often they play. Also establish limits within games or apps in terms of who they can play against, chat with, or whether or not they are allowed to make in-game purchases.
What is the best kid friendly tablet?
Tablets made for kids are the perfect place to start when buying a device for younger children. Suitable from the age of around 3 years old and up, children’s tablets usually come packed with educational video games for kids, fun filter and camera options and music players, and differ from tablets aimed at adults in that they boast a whole host of parental controls and usually come with built-in content to entertain kids.
Some kids tablets, like those from V-Tech, emulate the full tablet experience, offering secure text messaging to chosen family and friends and an app store on top of games, videos and music; this is a clever choice if your child simply loves taking hostage of your own mobile phone to play games on.
Other kids tablets focus solely on the entertainment aspect, like those from Pebble Gear; if you’re looking for a device that’s focused mostly on educational games for kids, these tablets are completely safe and secure for young children and come with endlessly entertaining content from favourites like Toy Story and Frozen.
What about smart watches for kids?
A smart watch is another clever way of introducing your kids to text messaging and video calls before they get their first mobile phone. Many smart watches for kids, such as the MyFirst S2 Watch Phone have a plethora of safety features, including parental controls that you can set through an app on your own phone, an emergency call button if your child needs it, and secure location tracking in case they get lost.
Purchasing a kids tablet or smart watch is a clever way of introducing your child to technology in a safe and reasonable way; with a little effort, you can set up lasting boundaries and create good habits for future device use.
What age is appropriate for a gaming console?
When it comes to more traditional gaming consoles, although it’s really still up to you to decide when is the right time, it’s usually best to wait until kids are a little older before getting one.
PlayStations and Xboxes provide fantastic entertainment for kids. Unlike kid friendly tablets though, it can be a little harder to control what your child gets up to and who they play with.
What are the best consoles for young kids?
If your kids are quite young, but the pressure is on to invest in a gaming console, opting for an older model of PlayStation or Nintendo that can’t connect to the internet is the easiest way to keep them safe. We have an entire guide to retro gaming so you can learn which retro console might be right for your family.
Handheld game consoles for kids
Handheld games consoles are also great for younger children and the perfect choice if you’re not too keen on having something connected to the television constantly.
Touted as the best handheld games console for kids, the Nintendo Switch is a solid choice that will allow your kids to play a vast range of games, both online and offline. With built-in controls and an outstanding battery life, the Nintendo Switch will keep kids busy both at home and on the move.
Luckily, it also comes with a decent number of safety settings that you can switch on and off on the device itself, or through Nintendo’s Parental Controls app on your own smartphone. Through these settings, you can control everything from the software your kids can download, to age limits, to the messages they send.
What are the best game consoles for older kids?
If you’re looking for a console for older children, moving up the ranks to a Playstation or Xbox is a good way to go. If you plan on letting your child play online with friends, start by finding out what consoles their peers have to make sure your choice is compatible.
The same advice applies to bigger games consoles: make use of the parental controls to limit what your child can do, and check in regularly to make sure you’re happy with how things are going. Before buying your child a device, it’s a good idea to have conversations with your child about gaming so you both understand where the boundaries lie.
PlayStations are a popular choice for children, with the most sought-after console currently being the PlayStation 5; with consoles flying off the shelves, make sure you sign up to a waitlist to get your hands on one as soon as they’re back in stock!
You could still look into buying older models like the PlayStation 4 if you don’t manage to get your hands on the 5. PS4 games for kids are widely available, and the console allows you to set parental controls such as time limits and online restrictions.
The Xbox Series X and Series S are great consoles for kids. There are plenty of Xbox video games for kids out there, and the consoles come with all the parental controls you might expect.
What games are suitable to buy for kids?
Of course, buying a device for your kids is useless without some great games to go with it. The list of video games for kids is endless, but there are a few firm favourites that you’ve probably heard of already. For more information, go to PEGI and CommonSenseMedia.
Suitable for: Ages 8+
Platform: Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch & more
Minecraft is a block-based building game with a vast online community. It’s an open-world ‘sandbox’ style game, designed to encourage players to build things using blocks and interact with others. Although Minecraft is an online game, and there can be some mild conflict amongst players, it can be played safely on single player mode. We recommend opting for ‘Creative’ mode on the ‘Peaceful’ setting for younger children; that way they won’t have any interaction with other players. Older children may benefit from playing with others hosted on a local server; this way they can avoid interaction with total strangers.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Suitable for: Ages 3+
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a simulation style game where players build up their environment and life on a deserted island. Full of cute characters, the game itself is rated as safe for everyone and contains no violence or other child-unfriendly features. Animal Crossing does have an online gameplay mode, but it’s fairly easy for parents to control using the settings on the Nintendo switch. Animal Crossing is a fantastic game to pick for younger children who have a Nintendo Switch.
Suitable for: 13+
Platform: Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch & more
Just about everyone has seen or heard of Fortnite by now; from gaining notoriety for keeping kids hooked, to the catchy dance routines kids have perfected, it’s easily one of the most prolific games of the last decade. Fortnite is a battle royale style game, meaning players need to eliminate each other using weapons until just one is left. It’s played online, and although it’s free, it encourages players to spend money on extra features for their characters. For these reasons, we recommend only allowing young teens to play Fortnite.
Everything you need to know about online safety
When you’re shopping for new consoles for your kids (or for yourself) staying safe online should always be a priority. CyberSafeIreland has everything you need to know about choosing the right devices for your child and how to keep them safe online once you do so.