Parents and carers reminded to think smart when gifting smart devices this Christmas

Wed 13-12-2023 07:23 am AEST

Editor’s note: Audio grabs from Commander Helen Schneider are available via Hightail

The AFP is urging parents and carers to factor in online safety when choosing and setting up new gaming consoles and smart devices for children and young people this Christmas season.

Developed by the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) and the ThinkUKnow program, the  Gaming, Devices and What You Need to Know safety guide provides easy to follow steps to help protect children and young people online.

With smart or gaming devices on many Christmas wish lists, and children and young people spending more time online over the Christmas holidays, parents and carers can feel overwhelmed when it comes to their child’s online activities and how to keep them safe.

Having an understanding of the features of devices, apps and games your children are using, particularly whether there is an internet connection and the ability to connect with other users, is important for keeping them safe.

Many people think that apps, games and sites specifically aimed at children are ‘safer’, which is not necessarily the case. Apps, games and sites that are marketed towards children may still have interactive online functions.

In-game chat and direct message are popular methods for online child sex offenders to approach children and young people.

Investigators at the ACCCE have seen online offenders use the privacy and anonymity of the internet to identify and target children and young people. They often use a direct message function to first approach a child or young person and convince them to move to an image sharing platform, with the aim of eliciting child abuse material.  

AFP Commander Human Exploitation Helen Schneider said it was important parents and carers talked openly and regularly to their children about their online activities and experiences.

“There are many positive aspects to gaming and being online for children and young people, learning to problem solve and socialise with their friends is a huge part of their lives,” Commander Schneider said.

“But there are also challenges and it can be hard to know exactly what to do to keep your child safe online. If you are planning on buying smart devices or gaming platforms this Christmas, think about who your child might be connecting with through those devices.

“Talk to your children about their online activities, keep up-to-date with their experiences and keep the conversation open.

“With just three per cent of parents and carers listing online grooming as a concern, it’s never been more important to understand the challenges children and young people can face online.

“Strategies which can help protect your child include; checking privacy settings on devices and turning off location settings, ensuring that profiles are set to private, understanding the games, apps and sites your child accesses, and turning off chat functions where they are not needed.

“Parents and carers need to be aware that chat functions are available on many popular online games and applications.”

The ACCCE Child Protection Triage Unit (CPTU) usually experience spikes in reporting of online child exploitation incidents after holiday periods. Last financial year, the CPTU received more than 40,000 reports.

“Where possible, implement parental controls on devices and talk to your child about how to build safe online habits,’’ Commander Schneider said.

“One of the most important habits to prevent online child sexual exploitation is supervision or oversight of your child’s online activities.

“Supervision or oversight can be different for different families. It can also be different depending on your child’s age and what they do online. Either way, it is important to take interest in what your child is doing online and who they are talking to.”

Tips for parents and carers:

  • Supervision is essential
  • Have regular, open conversations
  • Check privacy settings
  • Be approachable if your child needs help
  • Know how to report

If parents or carers are concerned about an issue that has happened online, it is critical children and young people are supported. Parents and carers can make a report online by alerting the ACCCE via the Report Abuse button at

The AFP’s ThinkUKnow online child safety program is focused on preventing online child sexual exploitation. For more information visit  

A copy of the resource can be found in the resources for parents and carers section at

Members of the public who have any information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime stoppers on 1800 333 000.

If you or someone you know are impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation there are support services available, visit to learn more

Note to media:


The correct legal term is Child Abuse Material – the move to this wording was among amendments to Commonwealth legislation in 2019 to more accurately reflect the gravity of the crimes and the harm inflicted on victims.

Use of the phrase ‘child pornography’ is inaccurate and benefits child sex abusers because it:

indicates legitimacy and compliance on the part of the victim and therefore legality on the part of the abuser; and
conjures images of children posing in 'provocative' positions, rather than suffering horrific abuse.
Every photograph or video captures an actual situation where a child has been abused.