Safe Cell Phone Tips for Kids

Jul 15, 2011

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When I was a kid, I loved the back to school season.  I would scour the Sunday newspaper ads for cool new clothes, schools supplies, and maybe a new bike.  I liked packing my backpack full of new gear, especially a wonderful new pencil box - it just had that "new" year smell.  Do they make those anymore?  Back to school shopping has definitely changed.  These days it's about computers and Smartphones.  If your kids have already started their campaign for a new phone, leaving ads on your pillow at night, or on the breakfast table, you're not alone.   Here are a few tips for parents struggling with the idea of what to do when their sweet little angel wants to spend more time texting than riding a bike.

Before you head to the cell phone store, talk to your kids about your rules for using a cell phone. Remind them that texting isn't always private and anything sent in a text can easily be forwarded to others and shared. Teach them to never reveal cell phone numbers, personal information, or passwords online. Explain the possible consequences of sending inappropriate, abusive, or provocative images or text messages. A good way to open up the discussion would be to have them educate YOU on texting. How often have you seen an instant message on Facebook that looks like a jumble of letters and numbers? Ask your kids to tell you what, "C U L8TR" or "LOL" means.  It will seem less intrusive to your kids if they are teaching you, rather than them being lectured about perfect grammar.

When shopping for a phone for your kiddo, they are sure to have a long list of "required" features, but you'll want to consider more than its download speed. Before you let your child get you excited about the great slide-out keyboard, review the available security settings. Make sure you're able to limit web access, texting and talk minutes.  Pick a network provider that makes it easy to access your child's phone activity. Ensure you'll have unlimited access to their texting history, pictures sent from the phone, and the call logs. Verizon Wireless allows you to easily access all of this information online.

A lot of parents struggle with respecting a child's privacy, while still protecting them from predators, bullies and harassment.  It's important for kids to have some privacy as it helps them learn important lessons about responsibility and trust, but those lessons shouldn't be learned at the cost of their safety. 

Every parent will have a different threshold of what they find appropriate.  My aunt wouldn't let her daughter get her ears pierced until she was 16, while some of my friends wouldn't hesitate to get their girls a set of cute earrings to wear to Kindergarten.  Technology today can help kids communicate, study, and nurture their creative side.  Watch any video of a three year old with an iPad on Youtube to see what a positive experience it can be.  With a few precautions you can unlock your kid's potential with new gadgets without sacrificing their safety.

Feel like your kids are dragging you too quickly down the technology road?  For more tips and tricks send me a note at www.callnerds.com/andrea.