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A MediaWise® Parent Guide—Cell Phones and Your Kids (page 2)

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

Cell phone = MP3 Player

Music for your mobile

Many phone companies are launching features where your favorite songs are stored right alongside your contacts. Motorola has even teamed up with the popular iTunes to offer customers access to their tunes through their phones. You can listen through headphones or out loud on the phone’s speakers. Right now, most phones can only store up to 100 songs, far less than most MP3 players, and the feature is still expensive. However, we can expect phones to continue to offer more memory for less money – making it easier for kids to plug in to their music on the go.

What to watch out for:

  • Buying music online can be expensive – help your kids create a music budget.
  • It is easier to “impulse buy” when you can buy music online straight from your cell phone. Talk to your kids about how and when to buy music.
  • Ask your kids what they are listening to on their phones. Try to listen to it as well when you can!

Featured MediaWise tip! Choose a cell phone plan with reasonable limits and make sure your child has consequences, financial or otherwise, if limits are exceeded.

Cell phone = Internet

Surfing the Web, on your phone

Accessing the World Wide Web has never been easier. Most new generation phones allow you to access the Internet right from your phone. Kids can now access their MySpace profiles, send e-mails, upload pictures to YouTube and surf the Web from their phones. While it is still expensive, sometimes slower than traditional Internet access, and sometimes hard to surf the Web on small screen, every year the service is faster and cheaper.

What to watch out for:

  • It can still be very expensive to access the Internet – resulting in cell phone bills kids and parents weren’t planning on. If you do allow Internet access on phones, set limits to online time.
  • Kids can download inappropriate messages or pictures off the Internet and send them to their friends. Talk about cell phone “netiquette.”
  • Although not common, teachers report a growing trend of Internet-enabled cell phones being used to cheat on tests using the Internet. · Constant access to the Internet can be very distracting.

Featured MediaWise tip! Review the cell phone bill with your child – making sure the expenses are what you had both planned on.

Cell phone = Text Messenger

A text messaging generation

What do the words POS or LOL mean to you? If you know that the first translates to “Parent Over Shoulder” and the second to “Laughing Our Loud,” you probably have a text messaging kid. Texting is probably one of the most mainstream cell phone activities among young people and more than 73 percent of teens use it regularly. For many kids, text messaging, or IMing, is their main way to make and connect with friends. They use it to chat, gossip, make plans, get help on homework, tell jokes, complain, make dates, and break up.

What to watch out for:

  • Text messaging can be very disruptive during class. Set rules and limits about when text messaging is appropriate and inappropriate.
  • Text messaging can be very expensive and take up lots of time. Set limits and encourage your kids to communicate with their friends in other ways too.
  • Some kids use their phones to spread mean messages or to intimidate other kids. Talk to your kids about cyber bullying.
  • Text messages can become pretty lewd and inappropriate because the medium has fewer social constraints. Talk to kids about text etiquette and manners.

Featured MediaWise tip! Find out about your child’s school policy on cell phone use and support it!

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