children friend girls playing internet with smartphoneChildren and teens talking and texting on their smartphones is a very common sight on any city street or in any shopping mall. Children get their hands on mobile devices at a very early age; most are online by the time they are in the third grade. While technology can be a fantastic learning tool for children, it can also be a safety risk. Thirty-five to forty percent of elementary school children are targets of online bullying, and many others are the targets of people whose only purpose is to exploit them. While some Internet providers attempt to protect subscribers, it is not possible to monitor everyone. Furthermore, the Internet has no governing body and no censors. Because of this, strict parental supervision is essential for protecting children from mobile device-related cyber danger.

How is Your Child Using Their Smartphone?

Monitor your child’s use of their smartphone. Instruct them to ignore emails and text messages from people they do not know. It is also a good idea to restrict the times your child can text, and monitor messages they send and receive. The knowledge that you will view the texts they are sending and receiving will often be enough to deter any inappropriate texting behavior.

Use Filters and Parental Controls

Determine if your Internet provider (ISP) includes filters as part of their service. If they do not, you can purchase software that restricts the types of email that are received. Share e-mail accounts so you can supervise their mail, join them in any private chat rooms in which they are participants, and track any files they download to their device.

Parental control apps, such as AVG or eBlaster, allow you to monitor your child’s activities on their smartphone. You can block inappropriate web content and monitor your child’s browsing history.

If your child has a Windows phone, you can use Microsoft’s parental control tools. They allow you to control the apps your child can purchase, and the web sites they can visit. Once you setup Window Live Id’s for everyone, just access the family safety section of the Microsoft site. From there, you can change settings and make restrictions.

Don’t Ignore Privacy Statements

Read the privacy statements associated with applications and web sites. Privacy statements contain information about whether your child’s data is used for commercial purposes. In a 2009 survey conducted by Consumer Privacy Solutions, only thirty-one percent of parents said they read the privacy statements for the applications their children download and the web sites their children visit, while fifty-six percent of parents did not know if their child’s Internet activity was tracked.

Passcodes Provide Protection

Setup a passcode on your child’s smartphone that you and your child can remember. This secures their device from unauthorized access from third parties. It’s easy to setup. On iPhones, click “Settings”, “General” and scroll down to “Passcode”. On Android phones, click “Settings”, and then “Security”.

Help You Children Make Smart Choices

Require your child to download apps from trusted sources, like the Apple Store and Google Play. If they find an app on another source, make sure the app is made by a reputable developer. Whatever they download, they should get your approval first.

Surfing Safely on Smartphones

Surfing the web on a smartphone can be even more dangerous than surfing the web on a computer. A smartphone is a computer, but the smaller screen can make it hard to determine if a site is fraudulent. People become victims of “phishing” schemes when they place their personal information in fake apps and websites. Have you child check with you when they see questionable sites or when visiting a site for the first time. A mobile security app like Lookout, will automatically protect them from downloading questionable apps and visiting unsafe web sites that can compromise their personal information and privacy, and make their phone unusable.

Social Networking

If your child has Facebook and Twitter accounts, then you should have accounts as well. This gives you the opportunity to connect with your child, while monitoring their Facebook and Twitter content to ensure they are not posting content that will endanger their privacy or safety. If necessary, help your child set up their privacy settings on these sites. Personal information could become public with the wrong privacy settings. Advise them not to post their birth date, home address, telephone/cell number, name and address of their school, or mobile location. You must know who your child is friends with on these sites. More importantly, you must help your child understand the difference between friends and strangers.

Contributor:  David Reed