Mobile Phone Safety Concerns

Many parents think about mobile phones and safety together because chances are that they purchased a mobile phone for their children for safety reasons. Although having the ability to call emergency services and stay in touch with parents while out with friends are some of the positives of mobile phone ownership, several safety concerns arise with mobile phone use.

Mobile Phone GPS and your children’s privacy

Enabling GPS on your child’s phone allows you to locate your child via their mobile phone, but it also allows applications, services, and potential predators to locate them.

If you and your child choose to keep the GPS function activated on mobile phone, consider asking your teen to opt out of allowing applications — such as Facebook and Twitter — to access this function. Applications that allow your teen to check in at specific locations publicly alert strangers to your child’s current location. Some programs even allow friends to post your child’s location without your child’s permission.

Consider the following:

  • Talk to your children often about privacy settings on their phones.

  • Create specific rules about location services on apps that allow strangers to find them.

  • Ask your children not to download applications that provide location access to Friend lists.

  • Ask your children to remove location from online social media posts, such as those on Facebook and Twitter.

Texts while driving

A 2012 study by the University of Michigan found that more than 25 percent of teens admitted to reading or sending a text message while behind the wheel, making them far more likely to be in an accident.

You can place apps on your child’s phone to help prevent them from texting and driving, but be sure to talk to your children about the danger of texting and driving. Be sure to institute rules such as the following:

  • Ask your teens to sign a pledge to never text while at the wheel.

  • Ask your kids to ask their friends not to text while driving while they are in the car.

  • Create and enforce consequences for texting while driving.

Kids watch you to know what behavior is appropriate. If you don’t want your kids to text and drive, make sure that you aren’t texting while driving, either!

Talk about texting and driving with your children as soon as they receive their first mobile device rather than waiting until they are also old enough to drive. Consider the following talking points when having this discussion:

  • Be clear with them about the potential consequences of texting behind the wheel including serious and possibly deadly accidents.

  • Point out that texting while driving is illegal in many states.

  • Include consequences for texting and driving in your child’s mobile phone contract.

  • Ask your kids to take a pledge to never text and drive, such as the It Can Wait pledge.

  • Discuss ways to avoid texting and driving, such as the use of apps and choosing an out-of-reach phone storage location in the car.

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The AT&T DriveMode, T-Mobile DriveSmart, and Sprint Drive First applications will help your teens stick to their pledges to never text and drive. Here are some other ways to use technology to protect your children from some of the dangers technology brings:

  • DriveOFF: This Android app (found at Google Play) from Esure can detect when the mobile device has reached a speed of more than 10 mph and will disable any potentially distracting apps as well as incoming texts and calls.

  • TextBuster: This system requires parents to install a device on their teen’s car and an app on their teen’s phone. Text messaging, e-mail, and Internet access then become disabled when the car is moving. Phone calls, however, can still be received, and GPS applications will still work.

  • DriveScribe: This free app blocks text messages and incoming calls when the owner’s car is in motion. It also tells drivers to slow down if they are going too fast, and creates a report for parents to show if the teen exceeded the speed limit while driving.

  • Canary: This free application allows parents to see whether their children used their phone while driving more than 12 mph. This app also sends parents an alert if it has been disabled by the teen.

  • DriveSafe.ly: This application reads text messages and e-mails aloud and responds without the need for drivers to touch their mobile phones.

Talk to your children about safety and sexting

According to the Pew Research Center sexting — sending a sexual text message with or without a photograph — affects at least 15 percent of teens; that is, they’ve received this type of message via their mobile phone.

Parents need to talk frankly with their children about sexting before providing them with access to a phone that supports text. When talking with your children about sexting, consider covering the following:

  • Discuss the rules regarding sexting in either your Digital Family Policy or mobile phone contract including consequences if your teen sends an inappropriate text or picture.

  • Create a plan for what your child should do if he receives a sexting message from someone.

  • Remind your children not to delete messages sent to them that may be inappropriate, especially those from people they do not know. These messages may be needed should you need to report inappropriate or potentially dangerous behavior.

  • Discuss the consequences of sexting ranging from hurting another person emotionally to breaking sexting or even child pornography laws.

  • Remind your kids that after they send an image, they have no control over who sees or shares that image.

  • Encourage your children to feel comfortable coming to you if they feel pressure to participate in this type of behavior.

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