Calling All Parents: Kids and Cell Phones (page 3)
Remember the old song “Operator” by the late American songwriter Jim Croce? The broken hearted singer is trying to get through to an old girlfriend, but he can’t dial the number himself due to the tears welling up in his eyes. At the end of the song, he wants to show his gratitude to the phone company operator for listening to his tale, so he offers: "you can keep the dime". Those five simple words show how things have drastically changed in our world since ol’ Jimmy wrote that song back in his day. Not only were calls just ten cents each, but public phones have practically become a thing of the past.
Does your child have a cell phone too?
Yes, we all have cell phones now. Walk down the street, and check out all the people talking on the their phones, whether they’re driving, walking, jogging, shopping, or getting every one angry while they yap away in a coffee or supermarket line.
Chances are pretty good that if you have a teen or pre-teen, cell phones are a part of their life. And they’re not just yapping it away but clicking away because today’s cell phones now include text messaging, Internet access, and all the features and Web sites that come with those connections.
There’s no doubt that cell phones have become a fantastic way to stay in touch and that they provide a real lifeline between parents and their kids that no previous generation has ever had before. So now that our kids have all these new tools at their fingertips, it’s time for parents to be aware of the security concerns and learn more about what we can do to keep kids safe. How do we better manage their time on the phones, and how do we make sure they’re not doing things that can run up our phone bills?
I spoke to one busy Mom who shared her views: “I certainly don’t want to hold kids back from using and knowing about the technology,” she says, “but I often see kids texting and talking on their cell phones constantly and it’s getting ridiculous and out of hand. They’re on their cell phones during dinner, movies, and everywhere.”
This parent makes a serious point. If a child is busy texting, then they’re not really spending time or paying attention to friends or family who are physically there. If I was sitting next to a person at a movie who was texting messages, I’d be distracted myself knowing that this person is not really “there” with me watching the movie, but is in engaged elsewhere with someone else.
“I hear that texting is supposed to be good for kids in improving their eye-hand coordination,” continues this concerned mom, “but I think we need to let our kids know there’s a time and place for it.”
What the service providers are doing
Not all phones have the ability to control content, but we’re slowly moving in that direction. Family plans and parental controls are becoming more commonplace. Large providers like T-Mobile and AT&T are starting to offer all kinds of features and services including:
The ability to set hours of when phones can be used.
The controls to turn off text messaging or block specific numbers (incoming or outgoing), limit time and days of usage, or block, limit, and/or monitor phone-based purchases.
A (sometimes free) service to parents who want to limit their children’s access from phones to certain mobile Web sites or services like music downloads and text messaging. There are also features that let parents establish a specific dollar limit for music and merchandise that can be purchased online.
The limit and control of picture messages and photos. This is in direct response to trends that we have recently seen of teens and younger children that might be tricked or bullied (by either adult predators or other kids) into taking and sending nude or suggestive and otherwise inappropriate images of themselves or others. These images can easily end up on the Internet causing great harm on so many levels if your kid becomes an inadvertent victim or provider of child pornography.
What parents can do
Make sure you check with your phone companies about the parental controls that they offer and take full advantage of them. Another way for you to stay on top of things is to monitor the monthly telephone bill and the online sites to view activity on your child’s phone. Check out the time of day text and photos are sent and received. If there’s late night activity going on, it might clue you in on some behavior of your child’s that you need to be aware of.
Even if you've never before asked to review your child's cell phone, now is the time. Ask your child how to enter the password (if they use one) and how to review text and photo messages. Ask to be shown how to take a photo and video using the cell phone's camera feature. These are issues that parents need to be aware of.
Talk to your son or daughter about responsible phone use – which includes the cost of using a phone, as well as good and ethical behavior that is expected of them. Talk about the impact that even silly photos taken and sent might have on them and their family, and also of appropriate times to use and not use the cell phone for texting, talking, and surfing the Web.
Reprinted with permission from Symantec. ©1995 - 2008 Symantec Corporation
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- Child Development Theories
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Social Cognitive Theory
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- GED Math Practice Test 1
- Problems With Standardized Testing
- The Homework Debate