Using a portable device like a mobile phone or tablet can unlock many benefits. Whether you're on someone else's device or your own, this lesson will help you through the first steps of using and personalising it.

If you or someone you know needs help setting up a device for the first time, they can phone our free Digital Helpline on 0345 222 0333. It is open Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm. The Digital Helpline can give one to one support with digital skills to anyone over 18. You can call them if you need in the moment support or extra help with getting online. If you're unsure whether you need our Digital Helpline, you can use chapter 1 to test what you know. You can also use it to help someone else.

Once you are set up, this lesson can then help you make the most of your device. You'll learn to adapt it to better suit your needs, so you can get the benefits of your device.


  • Check you know the basics.
  • Be able to carry out the first steps of using and personalising a device.
  • Change your device settings to be easier to use, more accessible and tailored to your needs.

Read time

10 mins

Chapter 1

Chapter 1


Read time

1 min

Are you or the person you are trying to help able to:

  • Turn on a device?
  • Use the controls?
  • Understand the parts of the device? E.g. charger, screen, volume buttons
  • Lock and unlock the device?
  • Use gestures to operate your touchscreen?

If you've answered no

If you've answered no to any of these questions, then chances are you might need some help before starting chapter 2. Our Digital Helpline is free to use and can walk you through how to do this one to one. You can call our Digital Helpline on 0345 222 0333.

If you answered yes, then you can go straight on to chapter 2.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2


Read time

9 mins

Getting started

If you're reading this, you have already made a good start in getting online. For now, let's focus on making your device even better for you. By changing your device's settings, you can personalise it to meet your needs. This can make it easier to use, see, hear or experience.

Let's take a look at the main features of your device which you can use to help. All devices are different, so we won't be able to tell you exactly where to find these features on yours. We can give you some general tips on finding tools to make your device easier and help you decide if they are a good thing for you.

We suggest checking your device's instructions or asking someone if you need more help. You can also call our Digital Helpline on 0345 222 0333. AbilityNet also have a section of their website where you can get help for your specific needs, set up and device.


Finding your settings application

The first thing you need to do is find your settings. On most touchscreen devices, like a mobile or tablet, you can find your settings in a few ways. The first is as an application or 'app' on your home screen. This is the first screen you see when you turn on your device. You are looking for an icon that looks like a small gear, it will also usually have the name 'settings'.

Other ways to find your settings

There are two other main ways you may be able to use to find your settings. From your home screen, you can go to your menu, either by clicking on a menu button or by using your finger to swipe on your screen. On most mobiles you will need to swipe up. Once you are in this menu, you can usually either scroll the apps by swiping up or you can use the search bar to look for 'Settings'.

One other common way is swiping down at the very top of the screen. This will bring up a small window where the gear icon will be one of the options. Now you're in your settings, you can begin to change your phone to better suit you.


In the next few sections we will help you:

  1. Change your display and brightness settings - This can make it easier to read what is on your screen and find your way around it
  2. Turn on accessibility features - These help you to use and access your device more easily. These can be really helpful if you have a disability or impairment. But, these features are for everyone and can help with a range of needs
  3. Manage your privacy settings - This can help to keep you safe


1. Change your display and brightness settings

Most devices will have a display option in the settings. Here you can do a number of things. All of them can help you to make the items on the screen more readable for you.


You can change:

  • How bright the screen appears - You may find it hard to look at bright light for long periods or you may find it hard to read text on a brighter screen. In these cases you can make your device screen more dark or brighter to suit you. You can usually also allow the device to change this for you. This will usually say something like 'automatic'. It detects how bright it is where you are and changes your display to match. So, if you're sitting in a dark place, your device will lower the brightness, so it doesn't hurt your eyes. If you are in a light place, your screen will be brighter and easier to see
  • Your screen mode - Some devices will have a dark and a light mode. These mean you can change between white writing on a dark background and black writing on a light one. It is up to you which you prefer
  • Eye comfort settings - All devices use what is called 'blue light'. This makes your device easy to see, but it can give you tired eyes. You may also struggle to sleep if you use your device late at night. This is because the blue light can convince your brain it's still the middle of the day. Most devices now have a filter setting, which can reduce this. You can turn it on and off. You can also schedule it to come on in the hours before you got to bed
  • Change the text on your screen - You might find the writing on your device too hard to read or you may be out and have forgotten your reading glasses. Maybe it's too small or too thin. In your text settings you can make it bigger or change what is called the 'weight' to make the letters more bold and easier to read
  • The display size - This affects how large things appear on your screen so you can see them better
  • Colour mode - Some devices will allow you to change the colours on your screen to make them more or less vivid. This helps if you find bright colours too intense or if you are struggling to see them


2. Turn on your accessibility features

Most devices will now have an 'Accessibility' section in their settings. These are some of the most helpful ones for making your device suit you. This is because it is all about making it easier for you to access your device.

These settings are very personal to you. There's no right or wrong way to set this up. Let's take a look at some of the options they have now. You should remember though; all devices are different and the best way to make the most of yours is to open the different options in this menu and read about what it can do for you.


Some of the main things it can help with are:

  • TalkBack/Text-to-speech - These can be helpful for people who are blind, partially sighted or generally just find it hard to see the screen. TalkBack gives the user spoken feedback so they can use the device without looking at it. Text-to-speech helps more specifically with pieces of text. Perhaps you don't need the audible feedback of TalkBack, but you would rather listen than read text. Text-to-speech or select to speak options can help with this
  • Visual aids - Similar to your display settings, you can adjust how things appear on your screen to make them easier to see. You can make your text larger, make things bigger and change how text appears
  • Audio aids - These help with sounds. You can change how you hear sounds out of your device. This can be useful for headphone users. By changing your audio to what is called 'mono' you can choose to hear sounds in only one headphone. So, you aren't missing any sounds if you struggle to hear in one ear. If you prefer to or need to read because you can't access audio, you can also turn on the captions
  • Using the device - There are many changes you can make if you need help or tools to use a device. For example, most devices will allow you to use switches. This can help you if you find it difficult to operate the controls and touchscreen on your device. There are other things to help with your mobility on a device. This can be changing what the buttons do or the sensitivity of your screen. You can also set shortcuts and gestures. These all mean you can adapt your device to work for you, as you can ask it to respond to the way you want to use it. So, for example, if you find it hard to use touchscreen to answer calls, you may be able to change your device to answer calls when you lift your phone to your ear or press one of the bigger buttons. Voice control is another useful tool to help you control your device if you find it hard to do by touch. Like Speech to text or dictation settings, you can say what you want to write instead of typing

3. Manage your privacy and security settings

These are also in your settings menu. They can be used to make sure you are happy that your device is safe and secure. You can change what apps can do through giving or taking 'permissions' from them. You can also usually store your passwords and update your software.

Keeping your software up to date is really important

It makes sure your device is using the latest versions of everything your device creator makes.

Your provider will always be looking for ways to improve your experience of your device. This includes sending you updates to improve your security. It also includes sending you updates that will fix any security issues they do find. These are all forms of software. It's what makes your device work.

So, always check your device menu to make sure your security and software is up to date. Most devices will give you a notification if you need to download an update.

One final way you can manage your device's security is by protecting the device itself

In your settings you can set a password or code for your device. This will let you lock your device and open it and will keep others out.

Most devices will also now let you set up something called 'biometrics'. These are ways of locking your device that are unique to you. Your fingerprint, your voice, the shape of you face are all things that no one can copy. So, they make good ways to lock your device.

If you lose your device, it adds an extra layer of safety on top of your password or code.

Finally, lots of devices will now have a 'Find my phone or device' setting. Once you set this up, you can use it to track the location of your device. So, if it's stolen or lost you can more easily track it down.

Activity - explore your settings

Activity - explore your settings

There are many other settings you can use to make your device suit you. Take 10 minutes now to look through your settings. Answer these two questions. What will be helpful for you in future? Is there anything you want to change to make your device suit you more?

If you are still unsure about any of the settings, remember you can:

  1. Check your device's instructions
  2. Speak to the shop or seller you bought your device from
  3. Speak to a trustworthy friend or family member
  4. Call our Digital Helpline on 0345 222 0333
  5. Go to AbilityNet who have a section of their website where you can get help for your specific needs, set up and device


Module complete!

Well done on completing this lesson! You should now be able to use and your device and change your settings to make it easier to use. We suggest you keep your learning going with our lesson 'Connecting to the internet'. It will help you connect your device to broadband internet or mobile data to help you get online. Or, if you have a laptop or desktop you would like to personalise you can go to our lesson 'Using your laptop/desktop'


Up next for you:

Next module: Connecting to the internet

Back to: Using your device

Scottish Widows Be Money Well is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Scottish Widows does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 31st Oct 2022.