Kids sure love their cell phones. In a recent study, the cell phone ranked 2nd only to clothes in importance for teens today. The cell phone can do much more than traditional phones, however, and giving this technology to kids without guidelines or restrictions can invite problems. Here are a few suggestions to help parents who give their children cell phones:
1. Remember that with the associated data plan, a cell phone can browse the web just like a computer can. A recent study shows that 1 in 3 teen regularly browse the web on their phone. If your cell phones have this ability, then you need to be aware of what is being viewed. Remember that your filter doesn't block content on the phone. Also, restrict the cell phone from the bedroom at night just like you do for computers. One way to enforce this is to require that all phones be charged in a public room of the house each night. We have our children charge their phones in the kitchen every night, so they don't have their phones in the bedroom with them.
2. Sexting (sending inappropriate images of themselves to someone else via text messaging) is very popular today. Spot check your childrens phones every once in a while to see what pictures they have on their phone.
3. Create a "check in/out" system if your children are very young. They can check out a phone from you when they need one, and they check it back in when they are done. This way, you have the ability to get in touch with them when you need, and they can always call you - but they don't feel "ownership" for the phone, so they won't give out the number to their friends, and if they do the friends will be less likely to send inappropriate messages and pictures to that phone, since they will know that it belongs to YOU.
4. Cell phone comanies allow you to turn off certain features - like premium text messaging (i.e., the "services" that can cost you money), or web browsing. Call the cell company, and limit the abilities of your childrens phones - only let them have what they really NEED.
Just a few small things can go a long way toward keeping your children safe!