Category: Online Safety for Kids

Is Your Child Ready for a Cell Phone?

Is Your Child Ready for a Cell Phone?

Parents often wonder what the right age is for their child to have a cell phone, but the truth is, every child is different. It depends on the child’s maturity, ability to be responsible, and the family’s communication needs.

As you consider what works best for your family, use the following tips to help set ground rules and parental controls for phones, and to decipher the delicate balance between monitoring your child’s cell phone use and respecting their privacy.

Setting Ground Rules for Cell Phone Usage

Like driving a car for the first time, most kids are excited to get their first cell phone. And when learning to drive, kids must go through driver’s education and have limitations placed on them once they can drive on their own.

The same rings true for cell phones. As adults, we know the distractions our phones can pose. Before you give your child a phone, discuss cell phone safety and the ground rules you expect them to follow. Start small and allow more freedom with earned responsibility.

Cell phone rules and expectations can include:

  • When the cell phone cannot be used, like at dinner time, during homework hours, or at bedtime.
  • Never texting while walking—this can be anywhere, including parking lots, the mall, sidewalks, or even at home. This can distract your child and can be dangerous if they aren’t paying attention to their surroundings.
  • Never texting while driving and following the state laws when it comes to cell phone and hands-free use in the car.
  • Only downloading approved apps.
  • Designating specific times to use social media apps such as Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Kik, TikTok, etc.
  • Keeping personal information, such as their school name, hometown, phone number, birth date, and address, off social media.
  • The understanding that the phone is the property of the parents and can be rescinded at any time for misuse.
  • A clear definition of who is responsible for replacing the phone if it’s lost.

As you establish ground rules, consider creating a cell phone agreement for your child to sign, and give them a copy to keep and comply with. The contract can include the estimated cost of the cell phone, whether or not you will be monitoring and tracking the phone, and a statement that phone privileges can be discontinued at any time for misuse. Warning your child of the consequences of misusing their phone ahead of time makes it easier to take their phone away, if needed.

What type of phone to get for your child

Cell phones are expensive, and your child probably doesn’t need the newest model with all the bells and whistles. The best first phone for a child is either a used one (several generations old) or a basic phone with limited functions.

If your child proves they are responsible by taking good care of their phone and responding to your texts and calls, you can consider upgrading them to a better phone, if needed.

How to use Parental Controls on a Phone

Self-control is not necessarily a strong suit in the still-developing mind of a child, and setting parental controls on their phone can help protect them.

Parental controls can include restrictions on downloading apps, preventing explicit content, limiting cell phone usage, restricting Web searches, and only allowing certain games. Start off by restricting as much as you feel you need to and eventually allow more options with proven responsibility.

Monitoring with privacy

There’s an ongoing debate about the balance of parental monitoring and a child’s privacy, and it’s up to each parent to decide on an individual basis. Just as a parent helps their child learn to ride a bike or drive a car, they can also help their child learn how to safely use their cell phone.

Kids rarely make phone calls anymore — instead, they use messaging for most of their conversations. Looking over social media interactions, app use, and texts can offer insight into bullying, disparaging comments, signs of suicide from friends, or unsolicited sexting from friends or strangers. Does your child know how to handle these situations? Will your child tell you about it?

Keep in mind that many kids don’t use text messaging like their parents do. They prefer Snapchat or Instagram messaging, and now both social media apps make messages disappear after a certain amount of time. Staying up-to-date on what apps your child is using and how they can be used for messaging can help keep you informed about your child’s online activity.

Most cell phone carriers offer packages to help parents with monitoring, and a number of parental monitoring apps are also available with varying degrees of tracking. These apps can alert you when specific words are used in messages your child sends or receives and offer more privacy by allowing you to focus on certain messages rather than every communication.

Cell phones can be helpful for families when used correctly. Taking the time to set up ground rules can help teach your child responsibility and will offer peace of mind as you navigate the treacherous waters that can come with your child’s first phone.


These days, most parents take for granted that every child will get a cell phone at some point in their young life.  However, some parents don’t want their kids to carry around a phone, regardless of whether they are ready for it or not.  There may be other factors in play, such as personal beliefs and concern about a child online safety.

All parents think about how much freedom a child should have before they reach a certain age. This opens up issues of how kids will feel if they are the only ones without a cell phone.  That is yet another important discussion that needs to take place within any family. In any case, communication is always key.

About the Author

Lori Cunningham a family tech advocate and contributing writer for Xfinity Mobile. She is a mom to two creative children ages 13 and 15, and always looking to find new ways technology can help families with their scheduled lives.

Cell phone readiness in children

How to Protect Kids and Teens from Identity Theft

As a parent there are so many things you need to worry about to keep your kids safe, now there is another. Did you know that identity theft of kids and teens is on the rise? Just in 2016 alone, the FTC received 15,000 complaints of identity theft of a minor and in 2017 more than 1 million kids have their identities stolen.

Roughly 4% of all the cases reported in a year affect kids and teens. Unfortunately it quite easy for someone to steal a kid’s identity. Generally, it begins when a criminal takes your child’s social security number.

Why Do Thieves Use Children’s Identities

The top reason thieves target children with identity theft is that they have perfect credit. Adults can legally apply for credit, and usually do so. In turn, an adult can have either a great credit score, or a less-than-perfect credit score. Rather than take the gamble on whether or not a person has a good credit score, thieves target children. Kids don’t have mortgages or default loans or any credit card debt. It’s like grabbing a clean slate and using it all up before anyone finds out. Children are also easy targets because it may be years before the fraud is detected and they start to use their own identity.

How Thieves Use Children’s Identities

Criminals use kids’ identities for loans, renting property, applying for government benefits, and opening bank and credit card accounts. The most common method is when the thief steals your child’s social security number and then uses it with a different birth date. This process is known as creating a “synthetic identity.” Most the victim knows the identity thief. 22% of the time the identity theft is perpetrated by a parent, stepparent, sibling or other relatives.

The worst part is that criminals can get away with it for years as it usually goes unnoticed until the child is an adult and applies for credit. Identity theft hurts college kids chances of getting into school, applying for internships and obtaining their own real credit. Once their identity has been used and sullied, it is harder to clean up.

Protection and Prevention Tips

Like with many things, it is easier to prevent the problem than to fix it after it has happened. This begins with properly educating kids on the possible dangers online.

Thankfully the government is taking notice of this issue and has started penning laws protecting underage people from identity theft. In the meantime, as a parent, there is a lot you can do to protect your child and prevent identity theft.

Tip 1 – Protect Your Child’s Social Security Number

Never give out your child’s social security number to anyone who doesn’t need it. Although places like schools, extracurricular activities, and even medical offices may ask for it, they don’t need it. They are not offering your child credit and limiting access to your child’s SSN is the best defense against this type of crime.

Tip 2 – Review the Safety of Your Child’s School Information

Pay attention to privacy policies and find out how your child’s school safeguards the personal information they store on students. Consult with their security team and even the IT department to ensure your kid’s data is safe.

Tip 3 – Secure Your Kid’s and Teen’s Mobile Devices

Personal information can be stolen easily from mobile devices that are not adequately secured. Teach your kids how to create complex, safe passwords and always use them. Don’t forget to teach your kids about these types of scams, along with phishing emails and never to click on links they receive.

Tip 4 – Be Careful and Monitor Social Media

Teach your child how to use the Internet and be safe online. Be careful what you and your kids post on social media. Monitor their posts and tweets to make sure they are not oversharing or communicating with a stranger who could be an identity thief trying to steal their information.

Tip 5 – Get a Copy of Your Child’s Credit Report

You can quickly get a copy of your child’s credit report at any time to see if there is any activity. Bank loans, credit cards and other things that show up will indicate someone is using their social security number. You will need to take swift action to repair the damage.

How to Fix It, if it Happens To You

If you find out your child’s identity has been stolen take the steps below as quickly as possible to resolve it before they need to use their credit.

  1. Contact all the major credit reporting agencies and ask them to remove all the credit information, inquiries, accounts and everything associated with that social security number.
  2. Next, contact every business that is associated with those accounts like banks, credit cards and other places the credit was used.
  3. Ask each creditor to place a “fraud alert” on the account.
  4. Contact the FTC and file a fraud report. You can also call them at 877-438-4338.
  5. If any of the accounts were used for medical expenses or involve taxes, you would also need to contact the police.

Online Safety Tips | Safe YouTube | Privacy

safety tips for kids 2018

As fast as the years come and go, Internet technologies change, bringing new challenges for parents and educators when striving to keep kids safe online. Here are a few of the latest tips for online safety including on sites like YouTube*, as well as privacy settings for other websites and apps.

*These tips are not an endorsement of YouTube as being highly safe for kids or teens. For strict filtering of videos, use our Safe Video Search Tool at the top of this website. Read about possible developmental dangers of YouTube.

5 Tips to Make YouTube Safer

  1. Set up a Family Account. By creating a shared Google account, parents can see what videos are viewed and shared with friends. To do this, go to Google on your browser and sign in with a new Google email address and password. You can also use your existing Google account on the computer and browser that kids use.
  2. Turn on Restricted Mode. This feature will help filter out the worst videos, making YouTube a little safer than normal. To activate, scroll down to the bottom of your YouTube account settings page and turn Restricted Mode ON. This has to be done on any browser that is being used and you always have to be logged in for it to work.
  3. Subscribe to Safe Channels. The more you subscribe to favorite ‘kid-friendly’ YouTube channels, the more positive videos will come up for viewing. Kids can also click through to their favorite safe channels and watch more safe videos related to their interests.
  4. Monitor and Disable Comments. When uploading videos, you can keep bad comments from showing up on your video. In the video upload screen (or the video editing screen after uploading is complete) you can disable comments altogether or keep them unpublished until you are able to review them. 
  5. Upload Privately. If you want to upload videos of your kids, or they want to upload videos of themselves, mark the video as Private or Unlisted. Private videos are only shared with friends your kids choose to share them with. Unlisted means that only those who are sent the specific link can view it.

Read more about Parental Controls for YouTube

5 Tips to Protect Your Online Privacy

  1. Make sure all sites visited are secure. Simply look for the “S” in https://. Unsecured sites will not contain the “s”, which stands for secure. Unsecured websites will start with http://.
  2. Make your passwords more complicated by using a combination of letters (upper and lower case), numbers and symbols.
  3. Always use privacy settings and ‘opt out’ buttons within your online accounts, including but not limited to, your social media accounts. This key component of internet safety limits how much information is being shared.
  4. Turn off GSP settings on apps to limit the tracking of your location. With the exception of maps and Google search for the purposes of finding local events and businesses, there is really no reason for apps or websites to know where you are located.
  5. Click Carefully. Watch out for links or downloads sent to you in emails, as well as online questionnaires and giveaways. These links may infect your computer or expose kids to unwanted content.

Explore Social Media Safety and Privacy Settings.

How to Ensure Internet Safety for Kids

Almost everyone owns an electronic gadget, and the internet has become part of our daily life. While the internet furnishes us with a wealth of information and convenience, it can be a liability, especially to children. Some reports say that approximately 36% of kids age 12 – 17 have experienced cyberbullying online!

Because of these startling stats, it’s never been more important for every parent to ensure internet safety for kids. Fortunately, there are different ways of safeguard your child’s internet safety.

Below are tips on how to protect your kid on the internet, including a helpful info graphic.

1. Train Them About Online Threats

Teach your children on the many online perils. For instance, let them know why it’s risky to converse with strangers online. Educate them on the sites which contain inappropriate information and let them know why they shouldn’t share personal information online. If your child doesn’t require a phone, speak to them about getting rid of their gadgets. Besides, there are many places you can sell your iPhone.

2. Know How to Use a Computer

While this might seem odd, it works for most parents. It’s surprising how much children know about the family computer than even the parents. The first step to ensuring internet safety for kids is by becoming computer literate.

This way, you can monitor what your kid does online and block specific sites containing inappropriate information with ease. More so, you can access our child’s internet history to ensure that they aren’t surfing in the wrong places. You can do all this when you know how to use a computer.

3. Acquire Monitoring Software

Parents should use a parental control app to keep an eye on their child’s access to the internet, and you can achieve this with the use of apps for parental controls. You can even install it discreetly without their knowledge. With such software, you can track all their movements online, including messages, chats as well as websites visited.

cybersecurity tips for gamers

Online Safety While Playing Pokémon GO?

Even just a few months ago, who would have guessed we would be talking about online safety related to outdoor activity? Well, as new technologies and trends continue to emerge we should know by now not to rule anything out.

Pokémon GO is all the rage and it’s brought kids, teens and adult game lovers outside to play, and exercise, all because of a simple and fun app on their smart phones. This is a good thing.

At the very least those playing the game are putting in a lot of extra steps walking while breathing in fresh air. Others are running as their virtual reality leads them into the great outdoors.

Now, here’s where the discussion of gaming safety comes in. There have been reports of minor injuries due to users not paying attention to their surroundings while playing the game. It can be as simple spraining an ankle while loosing your footing off a curb, or falling and landing on your elbow.

There is a verified news story about two young men who fell off a small cliff and had to be rescued. To be clear, they climbed a fence to access an area not open to the public which led them into harms way.

Now, I will say it again! The fact that people are venturing outside and getting some exercise is a very good thing. Sitting on your couch and doing nothing over a lifetime will quite frankly – shorten your life.

Bumps and scrapes are a normal part of a healthy active lifestyle. But I would also say that when caution and care is put into the equation, there are fewer broken bones.

We’ve mentioned walking and running, and we can take that to the next level for hikers, but what about biking? Yes, it’s something I saw last week in my own neighborhood.

A young boy was playing Pokémon GO while riding his bike. Parents are diligent in telling their teens not to text and drive, now you’ll also need to warn them about the dangers of riding their bike one handed while searching for Pokémon on their phone with the other.

… and yes, NO driving while playing Pokémon GO either.

Reviews of the video game include comments that it’s very easy to get lost in the game to the point where kids, teens and adults alike, pay less and less attention to the ‘real’ world around them.

The moral of the story? Get outdoors, YES! Have fun, YES!

Anything that encourages any member of society to ‘get active’ is indeed a positive thing, much like Wii Fit a few years ago. But when you go outside, don’t leave common sense at the door.

The Dangers of Texting and Walking


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