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Mobile 101

Parenting with Technology


Is My Child Ready for a Mobile Phone?

Does your tween/teen really need a mobile phone? It’s a question just about every parent faces. The answer usually comes down to responsibility and need. Their ability to understand the risks associated with misuse and the importance of mobile phone safety is a key indicator of emotional readiness for a mobile phone. If the answer is yes, and your child has good reason to need one, then it’s a good decision.

 

Ultimately, each family has to make an individual decision, but here are some points to consider.

 

Consider the Need

1. Does your teen drive or frequently ride in cars driven by other teens? You certainly don't want to encourage talking or texting while driving, but if your teenager does tool around town in a car, a mobile phone may be a good idea. Likewise, if he hitches rides with his friends, you may want to give him a way to get in touch with you easily if the driver isn’t sober; something happens that makes him uncomfortable; or if the car is too full to accommodate him safely.

 

2. Is your teen involved in sports, youth group or other club activities that take him out of town regularly? Whether the travel is overnight or simply into the late hours, you may want a way to reach your child when he's out and about. A daily check-in gives you a chance to make sure everything is all right, and it's reassuring to your teen as well—even if he'd never admit it.

 

3. Are you regularly out of town or at work late? Maybe you're the one with the crazy calendar. While you're out earning a living, your teen is on his/her own. So, you may want to be able to contact your child at a moment’s notice to let your teen know that you’re running late, or check in to make sure things are ok at home. You can even use an app such as Life 360 to track his/her whereabouts while you’re away on business or working late.

 

Consider the Want

Why does your teen really want the phone? Is it so that he can be in touch with you? Or is it so that he can be more in the social loop? Or is it because all his or her friends have one? That's not necessarily a bad thing—but you should be aware of it and acknowledge it as the reason for the phone if that's the case.

 

Along with the primary purpose for the phone, you should consider the rules for its use. Who pays for overages—and what are the consequences? Will you be able to see the phone whenever you want to check text messages, call logs and other information?

 

Consider Your Teen

Do you trust your teen to take the responsibility seriously? This is perhaps the most critical question to consider. Has your teen demonstrated responsibility? A mobile phone can be a questionable thing for a teen to have. Can your child handle it? Only you can decide the answer to that question—but seek out advice from those you trust if you need another opinion.

Mobile Phone Parental Controls

Mobile phone parental controls make mobile phone safety less of a hassle. Common mobile phone parental controls include:

  • Restricting phone numbers your child is allowed to use
  • Setting filters on the type of multimedia content a child can access
  • Disabling phone on a timer, such as during school hours or after bedtime
  • Regulating the amount of calls and text messages
  • Setting dollar limits on downloads, such as ringtones and applications
  • Monitoring a child's location is also available on many mobile phones. Using GPS, the system shows you where your child is and alerts you if your child goes out of a predetermined area.

 

Check out the website associated with your child’s phone to see what controls are offered and how to set things up the way you want them.

 

Note: Sections here on child mobile phone readiness and parental controls were drawn from www.sheknows.com. There’s more great information there if you wish to learn more.

Mobile Phone Usage and Safety Tips for Kids

Once you've made the decision to give your child, tween or teen a mobile phone, consider following these general usage and safety tips to assure they really enjoy their phones without getting into trouble. Some are more age-appropriate for younger or older kids, so use your own good judgment as to when to follow these suggestions.

  • Educate and prepare. Talk to your kids about the dangers and consequences associated with inappropriate mobile phone use, including sexting and texting while driving.
  • Select appropriate phone features. Determine what features your child needs based on his age (for instance, does your 10-year-old really need web browsing capabilities?).
  • Use parental controls. Learn what parental controls are available to you—e.g., restrictions on websites through the web browser—and use them.
  • Limit usage. Designate time slots for phone use ahead of time. Mobile phone calls and texting shouldn't interrupt dinner or family time, occur during school or cut into sleep time.
  • Consider monitoring services. If you feel it's appropriate, you can opt to monitor your child's mobile phone usage. SafetyWeb provides parents with alerts and reports on their child's mobile phone calls and text messages. Check out the following link for details: www.safetyweb.com/cell-phone-monitoring
  • Screen calls. Make sure your child knows not to answer the phone if she doesn't recognize the number. Likewise, texts from unknown numbers shouldn't receive responses.
  • Protect the phone number. Ensure your child knows not to give out his mobile phone number to just anyone or to publish it on social networking sites like Facebook.
  • Use download caution. Ringtones, games and other downloads can really add up expense-wise and can have hidden bugs. Set rules for downloading ahead of time.

Back-to-School Internet Safety Tips

If you’re concerned as a parent about your child’s safety online, you aren’t alone: a recent survey found that 94% of parents are either VERY or SOMEWHAT concerned about their children’s safety online. As your kids head back to class and start using the internet on both home and school computers with greater frequency, it’s a great time for you to take precautions and have discussions with kids about internet safety.

  1. Use age-appropriate filtering, blocking and monitoring software on all Internet-enabled devices used by your child, including laptops, wireless phones and video games.
  2. Stay involved in your child’s online world by setting limits on his/her “screen time” and monitoring who your child is communicating with online. Get to know the websites your child is visiting and keep an eye on your child’s online activities.
  3. Explain to your child that he/she should never give out personally identifiable information online, such as his/her whereabouts.
  4. Make sure your child knows never to meet someone they met online face-to-face without first talking with you about the situation.
  5. Tell your child to never share their passwords with anyone, including friends.
  6. Explain the potential consequences of posting inappropriate material online; a questionable status entry or shared image can impact a child’s reputation.
  7. Monitor your child’s mobile phone usage occasionally, including text messages and images shared.
  8. Educate yourself on the latest threats facing kids online (cyber-bullying, sexting, etc.), and talk with your child about being a good digital citizen.

Are You a Tech Savvy E-Parent?

Click here TECH SAVVY TEST to find out just how technology savvy you are as a parent!

Basic Techie Terms Parents Should Know

Chat Room An online service that allows users to communicate with each other about an agreed upon topic in "real time" as opposed to delayed time, as with e-mail.
Download Copy a file from one computer system to another. From the Internet user's point of view, to download a file is to request it from another computer (or from a web page on another computer) and to receive it.
E-mail A way of sending messages electronically from one computer to another, generally through a cable modem with wired or wireless connection to a computer.
The Internet A worldwide collection of computer networks that allows people to find and use information and communicate with others.
Netiquette Social rules of decorum for interacting with others online.
Search Engine A program such as Google that performs keyword searches for information on the Internet.
Surfing The act of browsing through the Internet looking for topics or groups of personal interest.
Blog A site on the web where an individual or group of users record opinions, information, etc. on a regular basis, often on a specified topic or subject.
PDF Stands for Portable Document Format, a proprietary document format developed by Adobe.
JPG A compressed image file format often used for photography (pronounced ‘Jay-Peg’)
Spam Unsolicited or unwanted e-mail, usually commercial in nature
Domain Name An internet address, often in the form of www.something.com, that can be used to find a given person’s or organization’s web-based home.
Browser Software used to locate, retrieve and display content on the World Wide Web. Also, the space where one pastes or types in a web address that the software will then locate and retrieve for you.

Note: Some of the above information on parents and technology is drawn from www.amle.org, the Association for Middle Level Education website.

Family Safety via Mobile Phones

We all know the basic benefits of mobile phones, but they can do so much more than provide texting, e-mailing and calling features. You can turn any family phone into the ultimate safety device if everyone knows how to take advantage of these great features.

  • Call 911 on any phone, even if locked, for emergency service 24/7
  • Locate anyone in your family using GPS on your phone
  • Check in to let family members know you are safe
  • View safety points such as police stations
  • Identify potential threats such as sexual predators that may be nearby

Life360 is one phone emergency safety app that provides a way for families on the go to keep each other safe by turning their mobile phones into ultimate safety devices. Use the link below to find out more about services:

www.life360.com/free

TECH SAVVY TEST

Yes No Q#  
1 I use e-mail to communicate with teachers about my youngster's academic progress.
2 I enforce Internet safety rules ("Net Rules") within my household.
3 I provide my youngster with appropriate technology to complete homework tasks.
4 My family has guidelines for selecting and purchasing software.
5 I monitor my youngster's use of technology for entertainment and learning purposes.
6 I use technology to keep informed about important parenting issues (such as participating in parenting listservs or researching information on websites).
7 I help my youngster use technology resources to reach his or her unique learning goals.
8 I attend training sessions to enhance my own ability to use technology.
9 I am familiar with the technology standards that my youngster is expected to meet at school.
10 I am familiar with my school community's technology plan.




Results

Number "Yes"   Tech-savvy Level  


# of "Yes" Answers Tech-savvy Level
1-2 Barely
3-5 Somewhat
6-8 Very
9-10 Exceptional


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