What Parents Should Know

Get to Know your Mobile Phone

Technology in itself is neither good nor bad – rather it is the uses of technology that causes social problems. The same applies to cellphones. The best way to get to know how they work is to use them. Try out all the features yourself – or ask your child to show you how a feature or mobile application works. The step to self-discovery will empower you to better engage with your child about their cellphone habits and allow you to provide guidance based on first hand knowledge and experience of cellphone use.

Threats to your Child’s Safety are Real

You are probably reading this website because you are concerned about your child’s safety. The media from time to time has stories about strangers who “groom” teenagers for sexual exploitation in mobile chat rooms, teens who sexually solicit their peers by sending pornographic images (called “sexting”), and harassment or bullying via SMS.

These scenarios do happen. Understanding how to deal with them will equip you to better communicate these dangers to your child and allow you to act appropriately if your child’s safety is threatened. Parents and children, especially teens, need to be better informed about cellphones and more careful about the use of cellphones.

One point to remember is that the risks teens face when using cellphones are not really that different from those faced online or offline. It seems that those children who may be most at risk are those who engage in risky behaviour or are experiencing problems in other areas of their lives. Access to a cellphone simply exacerbates these risks.

Some Tips on Mobiles for Parents

Parents should not only take the time to educate their children about responsible cellphone use, but parents should also put in the time and effort to learn and use the technological tools used by their children. You need to foster an environment supportive of protecting your child from the risks associated with using a mobile phone and as the one usually paying the bill you should set boundaries on your child’s cellphone use.

Parents should stipulate what mobile services are accessed, be aware of who is being contacted by their child via SMS or a voice call, and set limits on accessing the mobile Internet. It is suggested that mobile dating or anonymous chat services should not be accessed by children under the age of eighteen. Parental control of mobile Internet and cellphone use should compliment the efforts made by industry to regulate mobile adult content and mobile content services to ensure the protection of children’s rights.

A study from the United Kingdom entitled Mobile Life Youth Report 2006, focusing on the cellphone habits of youth, has some useful tips for parents that are worth repeating and expanding on:

  • Put rules in place for your child that determines when a cellphone can be used or when it should not be used.
    Agree what is an acceptable monthly cellphone bill and what your child’s airtime limit is.
  • Use SMS to contact rather than calling your child as this will ensure that they won’t feel embarrassed about replying to you in front of their friends.
  • Don’t break your child’s trust by reading their SMS’s without asking them first.
  • Ask your child what mobile content they would like to access. Do they want to download ring tones, wallpapers, games or information services?Make your child aware of the risk of giving their personal details over the cellphone, especially their photograph, to someone they don’t know or not know very well.
  • Let your child know that they are not to answer a number they don’t know.
  • Inform you child that spam does not need a reply.
  • Educate your child in responsible mobile Internet and general online habits and show them teen-friendly websites such as www.teenangels.org to empower them to make better choices when online.

Addressing the risks of cellphone use

To find out more about these risks in relation to cellphones go to Key Issues. See Industry Solutions for an overview of the solutions the mobile industry has put in place to address these issues.