What are Cell Phones?
Cell phones have become common among virtually all adults, the majority of teenagers, and even some younger kids. Although cell phones are still relatively new, recent technological advances have radically changed the way we use cell phones.
In addition to serving as an ordinary telephone, almost all cell phones are able to send text messages, pictures, and videos to other cell phones.
New phones can connect to the Internet from any location that the service provider has signal. Even the most basic phones have Internet features on them that can accidentally be accessed and you can be charged for data transfer.
Many modern "smart" phones have access to what are known as "app" stores. These stores are places that you can download games, applications, and tools to customize the functionality of the phone. The applications do generally go through a review process by the distributing company, but inappropriate material is still easily accessible.
Concern for Parents
- A frightening new trend known as sexting has become common among teens and even younger kids. Sexting entails sending erotic photos, videos, sound recordings, or text messages. Your child may be creating or receiving text messages that contain nudity or even hard-core pornography.
- Internet access on cell phones has opened up a whole new jungle of technology safety issues. Many of the recommendations for Internet safety--keep your computer in an open and visible area, install parental controls and content filters, supervise your child's web habits--become difficult or impossible to practice. Parental controls and filters for mobile devices are still in the works, and the tiny handheld screens allow for a dangerous amount of web-surfing privacy.
- Pornography can be just as easily accessed from a cell phone as it can from an ordinary computer.
- Occasionally fake texts are sent that try to gain info about the user, or advertise and sell products. These should be ignored at all costs.
- Cyberbullying is common through texting.
- For the privacy conscious, a cell phone's location is recorded and stored by the cell phone service provider whenever it has a signal.
What Can I Do to Keep My Child Safe?
- Talk to your child about sexting. If you're lucky, your child hasn't been exposed to it yet, but it's likely that your kids have seen or at least heard about such goings-on among their friends and peers. Be sure they understand that, in addition to all the other frightening effects of pornography, creating or passing along sexual messages can be considered participation in child pornography and can get them in serious trouble with the law.
- Even if your kids aren't into sexting, having a phone that is capable of receiving images and video puts them at risk for receiving sleazy content. You may want to consider disabling these capabilities on your child's phone. Call your service provider and find out what your options are.
- Until filtering and parental control technology for mobile devices improves, it is extremely risky to allow your child to have a phone with Internet access. You may want to abstain from doing so until mobile parental controls become better. There are many basic cell phones that have no Internet access, and even phones capable of accessing the Internet can have the web area of the data plan disabled. Talk to your cell phone provider about what kid-safe options are available.
- Let your kids know that if someone calls and they do not recognize the number, they don't have to answer the call.
- Consider using parental controls. You can look at our software for mobile phones list to check out some different options.
Improving Your Relationship With Your Child
Samsung Mobile announced the findings of 2008 Mobile Matters Survey. The survey revealed that not only are more and more parents and teens communicating through text, but for many, text messaging has actually played a role in improving their relationship.1
• More than half (53%) of teens that text message think their relationship with their parents has improved because of text messaging.• More than half (51%) of parents who text with their teens agree that they communicate more often with their kids now than they did before they began text messaging and that text messaging has actually improved their relationship.
Where Can I Learn More?
Click here to read guest blogger Lori Getz's post Multi-Tasking: A Misunderstood Concept.
Listen to our podcast about handheld and mobile devices here.
This Ars Technica article talks about the ever-increasing problem of mobile device pornography. Note that this was published in 2006--and the problem has only increased since.
The following MSNBC news story gives more information about sexting.
Common Sense Media Inc. on their website gives further information about sexting and talking with teens about it. See Talking About "Sexting".
Sexting: How Parents Can Keep Their Kids Safe - an informational flyer from the National Crime Prevention Council.
"Think before you post" is an add campaign being run by the Add Council in cooperation with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the U.S. Department of Justice. Their tips about what you post online or text to others can be found here.