A MediaWise® Parent Guide—Cell Phones and Your Kids

— National Institute on Media and the Family
Updated on Feb 11, 2010

Looking to the future

Dr. David Walsh, president and founder of the National Institute on Media and the Family, just returned from Seoul, South Korea where he attended an international summit on Internet safety. He came back to the Institute with plenty to report — especially since South Korea is about two years ahead of the U.S., technologically speaking. What did he see a lot of in South Korea? Cell phones, cell phones, cell phones!

Do cell phones still make phone calls?

What is media convergence anyway? Media convergence is when the lines separating different forms of media disappear. We already see a lot of this happening – for example, video games are now Internet compatible, cell phones host mini-cameras, and you can watch movies on your iPod. However, if the experiences of South Korean youth tell us anything, we are going to see media convergence accelerate dramatically. This will create a world where most forms of media are accessible in a cell phone that can fit in the palm of your hand.

MediaWise Parent Guide

In the next pages, you’ll find information about new trends in cell phone technology, how this affects our kids, and what to watch out for as a parent.

Cell Phone Parent Glossary

MP3s are essentially compressed electronic music files. You can download MP3 files online using programs like iTunes or Napster. You can also listen to these music files on MP3 players like iPods.

Bluetooth devices allow you to connect and exchange information online via a secure, short-range frequency. Many cell phones have Bluetooth devices, enabling users to send e-mails and interact online with other people within short range. Bluetooth also enables control of and communication between a cell phone and a hands-free headset.

Ring tones:
A ring tone is a customizable sound to indicate incoming calls on cell phones. Modern ring tones range from a standard “phone bell” to full-length songs downloaded from the Internet. Getting the newest popular song in a ring tone can be very important to kids.

Text messaging / IMing:
Internet-based group conversation. Users organize groups of friends into "buddy lists," with everyone choosing a unique screen name. You simply send a message and instantly join in the online conversation.

Cyber bullying:
Cyber bullying is similar to bullying, except it’s conducted online. It can mean sending derogatory insults or threats in messages or circulating humiliating information or pictures of a kid among peers. Sometimes it involves demeaning postings on Web sites.
YouTube is a popular video-sharing site, allowing users to post, upload or comment on short online video clips. YouTube is the fastest-growing video-sharing site on the Web and is wildly popular among teens.
MySpace is an online social networking Web site where kids can create their own profile, add pictures and music, chat with friends, join online groups, and contribute to blogs. Many kids trust their online friends, and post personal information on their MySpace pages.

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