It seems that everyone owns a cell phone today, and
kids are far from an exception; the average age at which
an adolescent receives their first cell phone is about
11 years. It can't be denied that there is value in
kids' having cell phones; cell phones can be an effective
means of keeping in touch with your kids and keeping
them safe; can benefit older kids socially; and can
be a good way to give your kids some responsibility
and accountability. However, owning a cell phone carries
a number of risks. For parents whose kids have cell
phones or who are considering giving their child a phone,
we have compiled a list of essential safety tips to
help your child avoid these risks.
1. Don't talk to strangers.
It's old advice, but it's good advice; your child
should only accept calls or respond to messages from
people they know, and should also only call or message
those they know in real life. While the threat of strangers
is often exaggerated, it still exists, and children
and young adolescents in particular should take steps
to protect themselves by being cautious in whom they
speak to using their phone
2. Know what cyberbullying looks like.
Unfortunately, cyberbullying remains a substantial
problem. Your child should know what constitutes cyberbullying
and what the consequences are, both for the perpetrator
and the victim. Teach your child against engaging in
bullying behavior on their phone, and make sure they
know that they should come straight to you if they observe
cyberbullying, whether they are the victim or someone
3. Don't share private information.
It's amazing how easily content and information can
be shared and spread using cell phones. To prevent your
child from falling victim to this phenomenon, teach
them not to send personal information using their phone
or to use their device to post it on social media, if
their phone is Internet-capable. Your child should also
not give out their cell phone number to those they don't
know well. Finally, your child should know not to say
or share anything inappropriate using their phone, especially
anything rude or sexual in nature.
4. Don't "check in."
Social networking sites such as Facebook offer geolocation,
a service that allows users to "check in" to their current
physical location and posts this information to their
profile. Because publishing your whereabouts online
makes you easier to find and follow, this feature comes
with some risk, especially for younger users who may
be more easily targeted. If your child has an Internet-capable
phone, advise them against using geolocation.
5. Practice Internet safety.
Another issue to consider if your child has an Internet-capable
phone is their level of access. While your child's being
able to access the Internet on their phone can be useful
and practical, it can also increase access to unsafe
or inappropriate websites and content. Teach your child
about what you consider acceptable use of the Internet,
and instruct them on how to stay safe online. You may
even want to consider placing a filter or limit on their
online mobile activity.
6. Keep it safe.
Your child should know not only how to keep themself
safe, but how to keep their phone safe. After all, their
phones are useless to help them stay safe if they are
broken or stolen. Give your child a protective case
for their phone to prevent damage, and instruct them
only to use their phone discreetly and only to have
it out when they are using it so that it is less likely
to be lost or stolen.
7. Follow the rules.
Be sure that your rules and expectations for cell
phone use are clear to your child; this way, they will
know exactly what they are supposed to do to stay safe,
and can be held accountable if they fail to take those
steps. Consider establishing punishments for failing
to follow the rules, such as taking your child's phone
for a few days.
These tips can go a long way to protect your child
from the threats and problems that cell phone ownership
may carry. However, to ensure their safety as fully
as possible, be sure to teach your child how to stay
out of dangerous situations and remain safe in all aspects
of life. Additionally, remember that these tips merely
concern safety; you should also consider educating your
child about other aspects of owning and using a phone,
such as etiquette, and even placing restrictions on
your child's cell phone use because of these aspects,
depending on the child's age and character. Together,
these tactics are sure to equip your child to be a safe
and smart cell phone user.
About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage,
Inc. a software company for communication software solutions.