Call Me Maybe?

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School’s out and your kids have days overflowing with fun and free time. You might be at the amusement park concessions while they’re riding the SuperVomitron Adventure Ride. Or maybe they’re at the pool bellyflopping with friends. Whatever the kids are up to, many parents like being able to stay in constant contact by getting them a mobile phone. If so, it’s time to teach them to think about safety and responsibility when using it.

Talk to your kids about your rules for when and where it’s appropriate to use their phones. Do you allow calls or texting at the dinner table? Should they give you their cell phones when they’re supposed to be sleeping, or – when school’s back in session – while they’re doing homework? Talk to older kids about the dangers and consequences of distracted driving – and set an example for them. And encourage them to treat others the same way they want to be treated.

Here are a few other things to consider before you get them connected.

All the bells, buttons and buzzers? Decide on options and features for your kid’s phone. For younger kids, you might consider a cell phone designed especially for children – ones that have features like limited internet access, minute management, number privacy and emergency buttons. Are you app-ehensive about apps and what kids might find online? Choose a phone with limited internet access, or you can turn on web filtering.

Location, location, location. GPS technology allows kids to reveal where they are. Some carriers let parents map their kid’s location or find their phone if it’s lost. Advise your kids to use these features sparingly and only with friends they know in person and trust. Explain that they don’t want to broadcast their location to the world, 24-7.

Share with care. Encourage them to think about their privacy and get the okay of the photographer or the person in the shot before posting videos or photos. It could be embarrassing and even unsafe. Filters you’ve installed on your home computer won’t limit what kids can do on a phone.

Here is more information about kids and mobile phones from OnGuardOnline.com.

Phones, Features, and Options

Decide on options and features for your kid’s phone.

Your mobile phone company and the phone itself should give you some choices for privacy settings and child safety controls. Most carriers allow parents to turn off features, like web access, texting, or downloading. Some cell phones are made especially for children. They’re designed to be easy to use, and have features like limited internet access, minute management, number privacy, and emergency buttons.

Be smart about smart phones.

Many phones offer web access and mobile apps. If your children are going to use a phone and you’re concerned about what they might find online, you can choose a phone with limited internet access, or you can turn on web filtering.

Get familiar with social mapping.

Many mobile phones now have GPS technology installed: kids with these phones can pinpoint where their friends are — and be pinpointed by their friends. Advise your kids to use these features only with friends they know in person and trust, and not to broadcast their location to the world, 24-7. In addition, some carriers offer GPS services that let parents map their kid’s location.

Develop Cell Phone Rules

Explain what you expect.

Talk to your kids about when and where it’s appropriate to use their cell phones. You also may want to establish rules for responsible use. Do you allow calls or texting at the dinner table? Do you have rules about cell phone use at night? Should they give you their cell phones while they’re doing homework, or when they’re supposed to be sleeping?

Don’t stand for mobile bullying.

Kids can use mobile phones to bully or harass others. Talk to your kids about treating others the same way they want to be treated. The manners and ethics you’ve taught them apply on phones, too.

Set an example.

It’s illegal to drive while texting or surfing or talking on the phone without a hands-free device in many states, but it’s dangerous everywhere. Set an example for your kids. Talk to them about the dangers and consequences of distracted driving.

Mobile Sharing and Networking

Networking and sharing on-the-go can present unique opportunities and challenges. These tools can foster creativity and fun, but they could cause problems related to personal reputation and safety.

Use care when sharing photos and videos.

Most mobile phones now have camera and video capability, making it easy for teens to capture and share every moment. Encourage your teens to think about their privacy and that of others before they share photos and videos via cell phone. Get the okay of the photographer or the person in the shot before posting videos or photos. It could be embarrassing and even unsafe. It’s easier to be smart upfront about what media they share at the outset than to do damage control later.

Use good judgment with mobile social networking.

Many social networking sites have a feature that allows users to check their profiles and post comments from their phones, allowing access from anywhere. Filters you’ve installed on your home computer won’t limit what kids can do on a phone. If your teens are using a mobile phone, talk to them about using good sense when they’re social networking from it.