Category: Online Safety for Kids

Cell Phones for Kids (and Tips for Cell Phone Safety)

cell phone safety tips

Once upon a time… kids would have to go outside to play a game with friends, get up to change the TV channel manually, and would have to walk 3 miles to school—uphill, both ways. A little further down the road, kids have access to newfangled technology and their parents are struggling to keep up with it all.

If you’re the parent of a teenager (or even an almost-teenager, tween) you may already be familiar with the pressure but still the the numbers are still shocking:

  • A whopping 77% of teens (between the ages of 12 and 17) own a cell phone.
  • Furthermore, 56% of tweens (ages 8 through 12) own a cell phone!
  • 75% of teen drivers admitted to texting while driving.
  • 28% of teens admitted to sending inappropriate pictures via text.
  • A large group of parents were asked what age would be appropriate for a child to get their first cell phone. 22% of those parents felt that 10 was a good age!

So if you haven’t been asked the following question yet… get ready, it’s coming very soon.  There are a lot of options regarding phones for kids to ease them into the world of cell phone use. You may even want to do some research before you hear that inevitable request:

“Mom/Dad, Can I Have a Cell Phone?”

In all honesty, it becomes harder and harder to say no. We all remember being on the other end of “but everyone else has one!” and how frustrating it felt when your parents didn’t understand. So, we try to understand because we remember feeling excluded from their generation, and we don’t want to put our kids through that same torture.

Most parents will set forth ground rules similar to giving a child a puppy (remember when that was what they wanted?!). Here’s a sample:

Cell Phone Contract for a Teenager:

  • I do not own this phone. My parents are awesome, and they are giving me the privilege of using this phone.
  • Nothing is free. This phone, and the ability to use it, costs money. I will work hard to earn this privilege.
  • (Prepaid phones / limited texts are a good idea for teenagers.) I will not exceed my limit for monthly calls or texts.
  • I will take care of my phone. If I break it, I have to replace it. If I lose it, I have to replace it.
  • I will adhere to all instruction on how to use my phone safety.
  • I will never use this phone in an inappropriate way.

More specifically, I will never use this phone to:

– Send a mean or hurtful text. If I have a disagreement with somebody, we will talk face to face.

– Talk or text after 9 PM.

– Have inappropriate text conversations.

– Send or receive inappropriate images.

– Follow policies regarding cell phone use in school.

– Talk or text while driving.

– If I decide to put a lock screen on my phone, my parents will know the password or code. My parents will have access to all of my phone call history and text message history.

{Parents} agree to respect my privacy and will only use their rights of access if I have shown suspicious behavior.

– I understand that this phone may be taken away if I am on it too much, or if I express negative behavior including talking back or failing to keep up with my chores.

– If my grades drop, I will lose this phone until I have brought my grades back up.

– If my phone has the ability to surf the internet, I will use a Safe Search Engine.

These are sample items that you may use or modify to create a cell phone contract with your teenager. However, it doesn’t stop there.

As parents of a teenager with a smart phone, you are responsible for:

• Restricting the amount of time your teenager spends on his or her phone. This includes calls, texts, and data usage.

• Encouraging activities that will draw your child or teenager back into the “real world” so (s)he is more attentive of his or her surroundings.

• Understanding the features on your child’s phone so you can answer questions and offer guidance.

• Updating the privacy settings on your child’s phone.

• Understanding how your child is using their phone, so you can keep an eye out for suspicious behavior.

• Enforcing the rules.

In the end, you are the parent. Unless your teenager has a job and is paying for his or her own phone and phone bill, you should have full control over the situation. Don’t be afraid to put your foot down and revoke– or deny– the privilege until your teenager shows full responsibility on their end.

Safe Internet Use on Smart Phones

*The ability to browse the internet (for tweens and teens that have access to the internet on their cell phone) opens up an entirely new area of safety concerns. Not only can kids search the web more discreetly, most parents do not view this activity as of much of a risk as they do allowing their kids to search on a regular computer. The fact is, the dangers are just as real and even worse when you consider that with a smart phone, kids can search the internet outside of the watchful eye of parents while using their cell phone in school.

We have a safe search tool for kids. It is an app version of safe search for phones that automatically ensures safe search is on.

Having your tweens and teens agree to use this version of search will automatically ensure safe filtering is always on. That said, you still need to set up guidelines that allow you to view history on their phone when needed, as well has having them promise to not delete their history knowing you may look at it.

An open conversation about all of these issues is vital to instilling responsible behavior from kids of all ages. To explore internet filtering with more parental controls, which can also be activated on smart phones, explore internet filtering software.

Cell Phones in School

cell phone usage in schools

Policies on the use of cell phones in school vary. While most schools have thorough written policies in place regarding the use of cell phones by students, these guidelines are continually being reviewed, revised and updated on a regular basis for a variety of reasons.

As cell phone used in and around schools evolves and becomes more pervasive throughout society in general, educators are also finding that the age of the typical child with a cell phone in school is getting younger.

New Issues Regarding the Use of Cell Phones by Students

With added cell phone features becoming standard, such as photo and video cameras and recording devices, educators face new issues that did not exist a few years ago. Issues of this nature were first addressed with high school students, and in recent years students using cell phones in middle schools needed guidelines. Today, we see that even elementary schools are now part of the cell phone debate.

The debate over cell phone use in school is no longer about whether or not these devices should be allowed on school premises. The fact of the matter is, parents expect to be in contact with their kids before and after school, as well as during lunch hours for those kids who leave school grounds. The cell phone may also facilitate students in planning after-school work and other activities, such as sporting events.

It is no longer reasonable for educators to expect students to turn in their cell phones at the door and pick them up when school is over. Requiring kids to leave cell phones in the lockers, also increases the risk of theft on a larger scale.

Since students are not prevented from carrying cell phone on their person, the risk of camera phones being used to take photographs of quizzes or exams and transmit them to classmates is of greater concern, not to mention the ability to text or instant message other students. In addition, pictures may be taken at home of notes that can easily be hidden within a phone and later used to cheat on an exam.

Protection of Kids from Cell Phone Abuse

While restricting any use of a cell phone in the classroom is just a matter of common sense, policies around cell phones in school revolve around ‘how to control cell phone use’ during those times throughout the school day when kids are roaming free, such as before school, at recess, lunch breaks and after school class hours.

Camera phones can be used to take embarrassing photographs of classmates in private areas, such as restrooms and locker rooms, and share them with others electronically or posting videos on YouTube. This technology raises legal issues of privacy and sexual harassment.

Cyber bullying also becomes more of an increased issue with access to social media sites, not to mention the distraction that social media and texting can pose to educational process for any child.

Benefits of Cell Phones in School

Cameras on phones can have educational benefits, giving students the ability to record field trips or school events, to enhance reports with visuals, and to develop photo essays. We have also mentioned the benefit for kids and parents to be in contact with each other, even if to only schedule pick up times.

Smart phones also give students easy access to the internet, which can be a benefit for research (replacing the use of a computer within the school) but can also open up potential concerns about cell phone safety for kids who are out of the watchful eye of their parents.

The use of cell phones by teachers is also part of many school policies. The main concern is whether cell phones should be used during school hours for personal business and therefore distracting teachers from their duties in offering students their undivided attention in the classroom or during the supervision of an exam.

Disciplinary Action for Cell Phone Misuse by Students

Any school policy regarding cell phones in school must also include disciplinary action for various activities involving cell phone use that is contrary to existing policies laid out. There should be set consequences that match the severity of the misuse, as well as reoccurring violations by an individual student or group of students. The most common repeat offense seems to be cell phones ringing in the classroom because a student forgot to turn their phone off.

In Summary

There was a time when “not in school!” was an important rule set for teenagers or children and their cell phones. Things have changed (rather quickly) and cell phones are now welcome in schools… with some guidelines, of course.

A few reasons why cell phones in school is a good thing:

  • Smart phones can help students get more organized in school.
  • Bringing a phone to school lets children communicate with their parents if they need to stay after or have forgotten something at home.
  • Personal phones can be used in the event of an emergency or accident.
  • However, there is an even longer list of reasons why cell phones in school is a bad thing. A few of those reasons include:

– Cell phones can be used to cheat in class.

– Cell phones can be a distraction in school.

– Cell phones can be used for bullying, including taking inappropriate or unwanted pictures and video.

– It can be very challenging for a teacher or school staff to closely monitor each student and ensure that school cell phone policies are followed.

– It is unhealthy for a child or teenager to depend on their cell phone for entertainment, or excessive communication with others when they should be focused on school work.

– Safe practices while searching the internet are just as important on a phone than when using a computer.

What Parents Can Do To Teach Your Teen About Cell Phones in School:

Since school policies have approached this topic with an open mind, it’s up to the parents to make sure your child will follow the guidelines and show responsibility when bringing a phone to school. After all, it would be unfair to expect your child to leave their phone at home (since they are allowed in school) and having a cell phone can be helpful in case of an emergency.

Check with the school to find out what the policies are, and use your best judgment to add your own expectations. For example, some schools may allow students to have their phones on during lunch or between classes, and you may not agree with this.

The trick with cell phones in school is that students should not leave valuable property in a car or locker, because it could get stolen. So it is up to the student to be responsible and leave their phone turned off (not just on silent) during class.

So as the parent, you can watch to see how “addicted to their phone” your child is, and at your own discretion determine if the benefits are worth the risk.

Parents: Read about Cell Phone Safety Tips!

Online Safety When Posting Pictures Online

Talking to teens about internet safety can often be frustrating, especially if they pretends to listen, giving one word responses at the right times. For that reason, the first tip for talking to a teenager (about anything) is to make it a routine.

If you truly want to have meaningful two-way conversations on a variety of topics, including the short term and long term concerns of posting pictures online, laying the proper ground work is essential.

Making Time for Open Conversation

It can be weekly, or monthly, or as often as every day after dinner. Families that “enforce” open conversations are more aware of what’s really going on with every family member, and that’s important. Discussions about online safety for kids doesn’t have to (always) center around extremely sensitive, awkward, uncomfortable, or otherwise personal topics. In fact it will feel easier to talk about anything when your family has a routine of open conversation.

Some general guidelines to follow include:

  • The dinner table is a good place for casual family conversation about almost anything, but avoid topics that are too personal or uncomfortable while eating. Use these times as a good starting point to learn what your kids think and feel about various topics.
  • Open conversation should take place in a relaxed and comfortable environment. However, nobody should be distracted… and that means you should not have open conversations while driving or with the TV on.
  • During open conversations, everybody should have their cell phone off or in another room. This includes you!
  • Give your teenager your undivided attention. Ask open ended questions that can’t be given a short answer. Wait for an answer, and listen.

Above all else, having an open mind as a parent is crucial. Your teenager must feel comfortable talking to you, without fear of repercussion, or she will only give you the parts that she feels are safe to tell you.

Be Easy to Talk To

It’s frustrating when you try to talk to a teenager who won’t say much to you, but is always texting on their phone. Surely she has something to say… why are they so aloof with you?

Before you go blaming the phone, ask how difficult it might be for your teenage daughter or son to get your undivided attention. Remember that you have a lot on your mind too, so sometimes you might be too distracted and equally difficult to talk to.

Then there is the parenting style you follow. Parents who say “No, because I said so” are less easy to talk to then parents who say “No, because {explanation}.” Although your teenager is still a child in your heart, you are still raising a person who has reached a point of independence that you aren’t happy about. It shows, but there is nothing you can do to keep her a baby forever.

Make Them Laugh

The tough conversations are even tougher with a teenager. Teens know that babies aren’t brought by a stork, and at least one of their peers probably already has one on the way. When having a tough conversation with a teenager, you want to contribute information from a different perspective while also gaining an understanding of where they are coming from.

While being a good listener, you must also understand that this conversation is a million times tougher for your son or daughter to be having with you. Consider how awkward you feel bringing it up, and multiply it by infinity.

The most helpful thing you can do is set the tone to ease their discomfort. Use humor to make them laugh (but not humor that will only make her more uncomfortable!) and your child will be more likely to relax and open up to you.

Talking About Posting Pictures Online

This might come as a shock to you, but many teenagers can be reckless with the photos they post online. This is particularly true of girls. They want so badly to be seen as mature adults—and as attractive females—that they will share pictures of themselves that are various levels of inappropriate.

(You can start with that, if you want.)

Did you know that pictures you share online can be traced to your location, even if you don’t tag it on Facebook? (You can start with that too, maybe even share an article that talks about how location services in smart phone cameras place a stamp that can be used by computer-savvy web users to find out where a person is located.)

The important thing is not to go through your teenagers’ social media page without her permission and comment on pictures belonging to her or her friends. (A teens privacy on Facebook is up to each parent’s discretion and it may be as easy as ‘being friends’ with your kids on Facebook so they know you expect a certain standard of conduct). Raise awareness about various issues regarding social media and plant the seed of a new perspective.

Note- It is perfectly okay to inform your daughter that “duck lips” are terribly ridiculous looking, but a genuine smile is much more beautiful and attractive to boys!

The point is that you aren’t entirely in charge of the conversation and shouldn’t try to stick to one point. Encourage your daughter to participate by asking her opinion on inappropriate pictures (where does see the line drawn?) or finding out what she knows about geotagging.

Rather than taking the cliché paranoid parent approach, talk about posting pictures online as a casual conversation. You’ll get the answers you want, and it will give you both a chance to learn from each other.

Parent Guide to Protecting Teens on Social Media

Protecting Teens on Social Media

Raising a teenager is no picnic! On one hand, you want to respect boundaries and give your growing child the freedom to make—and learn from—their own mistakes. On the other hand, you want to do everything in your power to protect your child from… well, everything.

(This article is directed at parents. Teens, read what you can do here).

When it comes to online safety, social media has its’ own unique set of problems for teenagers… and it can go far beyond the online predator horror stories. That’s why it’s important as a parent to be involved with your teens’ online activity and guided in how to have a healthy relationship with social media.

Let’s be honest, not every parent is active on social media.

If your teen is using social media… that is a good reason why you should be too. Even if you don’t use social media actively, you should be friends with your teen so you can routinely check and see their posts. Not only will this give you a chance to see what’s really going on in their mind (because social media brings out a passive aggressive behavior in everyone, and teenagers are especially likely to Facebook their problems instead of facing them) but you can also recognize inappropriate behavior or posts, such as posting personal information.

That being said, there is away to keep tabs on your kids social media use without ever going online.  Through parental control software, parents can monitor and restrict the use of social media apps.

Note that Facebook has a filtering feature that can allow teenagers to hide certain posts from parents or other adults. Use your best judgment to determine if your child might be filtering the posts that you see.

While we’re being honest, most teenagers use another social media site more than Facebook or Twitter.

Most parents are surprised to learn that their child has social media accounts on sites they probably didn’t even know about. Talk to your child and make sure you know every site they are using and how those sites are used.

Open communication.

Parents who openly communicate with their children are more likely to receive the same approach in response. It is critical that your teenager feel safe in talking to you, because fear of punishment can result in isolated or rebellious behavior.

During the difficult teenage years, your child will want to test boundaries. They will want to do and say things that you would not approve of. This is basic human nature. It’s important that you understand and respect this, while letting them know they can talk to you about anything.

At the same time, you should lead by example and initiate those difficult discussions with your teen. Have a deeper conversation about how social media can effect their health and wellness, including issues such as body image.  Even if you only get one-word responses when asking questions, they are still listening… and it establishes a comfortable environment for open communication in your home.

It is also important to have a discussion about cell phone safety, where kids can access social media site with ease and outside the watchful eye of parents. This raises issues of cell phone safety.

Practical privacy.

Keep computers in a “public” location, rather than in their bedroom. At your discretion, it may be a good idea to routinely check computer and phone history and require that you know the passwords to all of your teen’s accounts… but keep in mind that infringing on their right to privacy may only push them further away.

In a nutshell, trust your child enough to give them leash and don’t violate their privacy without justifiable cause. However, maintain the ability to check up on your teen if they begin to show suspicious behavior. This can be achieved through an internet monitoring app.

Establish boundaries.

Boundaries, rules, and guidelines can be applied to behaviors that are allowed on social media… as well as the amount of time allowed to spend on social media. Teenagers with smart phones tend to be more interested in the cyber world and oblivious to the real world around them, but as a parent you can set the rules to prevent this from happening.

Stay informed of the threats.

Internet safety is about so much more than online predators or identity theft. In fact, teenagers are not the only vulnerable internet users.

Even parents can make mistakes on social media!!! Did you know that you should never brag about an upcoming vacation, and when you take a vacation you should wait until you return home to post pictures?

It helps to know the tricks and trends, because the more likely online threats are much more common—such as falling victim to a spambot.

Here is a guide you can give your teenager about social media safety for teens.