Today it’s not unusual to see a teen with a cell phone. It can help parents stay connected to their children and provide educational opportunities. With all the personal information stored and shared from a smartphone, children may be sharing information with more people than they think. In the U.S., 55 percent of teens own a smartphone. That number is most likely growing.
Similar to Penny in the old cartoon Inspector Gadget, children now have a computer in the palm of their hands. Accessing the Internet and social media is as easy as quick click of a button. Setting ground rules and determining expectations for cell phone use up front is key in keeping your children safe.
As if being a parent isn’t hard enough, problems that can arise from improper cell phone use and security include:
- Identity theft
- Predator risk
- Involuntary porn
Tips For Safety
We all want our children to be safe, and with proper care, your child can be safe in today’s world and still have a smartphone. Here are some suggested perimeters to have with your child’s phone to optimize his or her safety:
- Set a password on the home screen. It may seem like a hassle, but it is worth it if your child loses his or her phone or if someone at school wants to play a joke.
- Use locator apps sparingly. The geo-location app tells everyone where your child is at all times. There are also parental controls available on some of these apps.
- Never use a cell phone while driving. This is always a bad idea. Texting and talking are extremely distracting.
- Turn off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS when not using. Hackers can tap into phone through these programs.
- Always get the software updates on phones. Operating system updates typically include security patches so install immediately to have the latest updates.
- Don’t send anything that you wouldn’t want published somewhere. Even a private message to a friend can be resent or posted somewhere on the Internet.
- Only accept friends you know on social media. Also avoid giving out private and location-based information on these networks. You may want to have an account to “follow” any odd activity on your child’s account.
- Don’t respond to anonymous texts or calls. These could be a hacker trying to get personal information or a phishing scheme to extract personal data.
- Download applications from reputable sites. Use Apple’s app store for iPhones. Android apps can come from anywhere. Be sure to read permissions list before agreeing to download.
- Download a “Find My Phone” app. These free apps are available for both iPhones and Android and will make it easy to find a lost phone. Parents can also use these apps to keep track of their kids’ phones.
- Activate auto-delete feature. This security feature should be turned on to deplete data if the phone is lost or stolen. You can set this feature to clean out your data after a specified number or failed attempts to get into your phone.
- Review what is stored on your child’s phone with him or her. What identifiers are available on this phone? Address? User names and passwords? Pictures you would not want out on the Internet of your child? Make sure your child knows that this information may not always be private if the phone is stolen or someone borrows it for a quick minute.
- Review privacy settings. While most people pay attention to their computer settings, many forget to review privacy settings on their mobile phones.
- Cell phone activity does go on the Internet. Even things a child does on a cell phone app like Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat does go on the public Internet. It is not reserved to the apps only.
- Don’t give out your cell phone number with ease. Giving your number to strangers or subscribing to services that require your cell number can open up the doors to spam and hackers who can send malware or viruses.
You don’t have to run a prison to keep your child safe. Many of these tips are common sense and that’s why they can be overlooked. It is extremely important to have rules on cell phone use with your children. Today’s times are different than when you were a child. Thieves and hackers are anxious to get ahold of anyone’s information – your child and yours. Think about these tips for you as well to stay safe in our new digital world.