Be Proactive About Keeping Your Kids Safe on Their Mobile Phones

Friday, June 28 at 09:10 AM
Category: Personal Finance

What age is appropriate for a kid to have a mobile phone? That's something for you and your family to decide. Consider your child's age, personality and maturity, and your family's circumstances. Is your child responsible enough to follow rules set by you and the school?

When you decide your child is ready for a mobile phone, teach him/her to think about safety and responsibility.

Phones, Features and Options

Decide on options and features for your kid's phone. Your mobile phone company and the phone itself should give you choices for privacy settings and child safety controls. Most carriers allow parents to turn off features, like web access, texting or downloading. Some cell phones are made especially for children. They're designed to be easy to use, and have features like limited internet access, minute management, number privacy and emergency buttons.

Be smart about smart phones. Many phones offer web access and mobile apps. If your children are going to use a phone and you're concerned about what they might find online, then you can choose a phone with limited internet access, or you can turn on web filtering.

Get familiar with social mapping. Many mobile phones now have GPS technology installed. Kids with these phones can pinpoint where their friends are — and be pinpointed by their friends. Advise your kids to use these features only with friends they know in person and trust, and not to broadcast their location to the world, 24-7. In addition, some carriers offer GPS services that allow parents to map their kid's location.

Develop Cell Phone Rules

Explain what you expect. Talk to your kids about when and where it's appropriate to use their cell phones. You also may want to establish rules for responsible use. Do you allow calls or texting at the dinner table? Do you have rules about cell phone use at night? Should they give you their cell phones while they're doing homework, or when they're supposed to be sleeping?

Don't stand for mobile bullying. Kids can use mobile phones to bully or harass others. Talk to your kids about treating others the same way they want to be treated. The manners and ethics you've taught them apply on phones too.

Set an example. It's illegal to drive while texting, surfing or talking on the phone without a hands-free device in many states, but it's dangerous everywhere. Set an example for your kids. Talk to them about the dangers and consequences of distracted driving.

Mobile Sharing and Networking

Networking and sharing on-the-go can present unique opportunities and challenges. These tools can foster creativity and fun, but they could also cause problems related to personal reputation and safety.

Use care when sharing photos and videos. Most mobile phones now have camera and video capability, making it easy to capture and share every moment. Be aware some mobile phones have a default setting to include location information with photographs taken on the phone. Encourage your child to think about his/her privacy and that of others before sharing photos and videos via cell phone. Get the okay of the photographer or the person in the shot before posting videos or photos. It could be embarrassing and even unsafe. It's easier to be smart upfront about what media they share at the outset than to do damage control later.

Use good judgment with mobile social networking. Many social networking sites have a feature that allows users to check their profiles and post comments from their phones, allowing access from anywhere. Filters you've installed on your home computer won't limit what kids can do on a mobile phone. If your kids are using a mobile phone, then talk to them about using good sense when they're social networking from it.

Tags: Consumer Protection, Privacy and Security, Technology
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