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Cell phone safety tips for back-to-school

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Protecting your kids

Can you hear me now? According to research, twenty-two percent of young children (ages 6-9) own a cell phone , sixty percent of tweens (ages 10-14), and eighty-four percent of teens. At back-to-school time, many parents make the decision to arm their kids with cell phones.
Talk and text safety tips
Young teen texting on a cell phone

Contributed courtesy of SafetyWeb

Parents generally say they allow their kids to have cell phones for safety reasons; they want to be able to reach the child anytime. Cost is also a factor. Cell phone industry experts say phones and family plans are both becoming more affordable. Also, as adults swap out their old devices for newer smart phones, it is easier to pass down a used phone.

But for children, it is all about social life. A Pew study found that half of 12 to 17-year-olds sent at least fifty text messages a day and texted their friends more than they talked to them on the phone or even face-to-face.

Of course, owning a cell phone comes with possible outside threats. Here are ten tips from SafetyWeb to help keep your kid stay safe while using a cell phone:

1

Get educated and prepared

Talk to your kids about the dangers and consequences associated with inappropriate cell phone use. Discuss topics including sexting and texting while driving. Make sure you get caught up on the lingo of popular acronyms and initialisms. Ask your kids to save any abusive or problem messages to show an adult.

2

Select appropriate phone features

If your child is under 10, they probably don't need a phone with unlimited social networking or email capabilities. Likewise, the actual phone itself doesn't need built-in features like a web browser or video messaging. For a young child, look for basic phones. Review all pre-programmed apps and phone capabilities beforehand.

3

Use parental controls

If your child's cell phone has access to the internet, find out if your service provider offers some sort of parental control feature to which you can subscribe.

4

Limit usage

Designate time slots for talking — perhaps after homework and chores are completed, or before dinner. Don't let constant calls interrupt family time. It's easy for a chatty teen to cuddle up to a phone at bedtime, so check periodically.

5

Consider monitoring services

Perhaps your child is older, but you're still not comfortable with him or her texting and emailing unmonitored. SafetyWeb provides parents with comprehensive alerts and reports on their child's cell phone calls and text message activity. This allows you to keep track of when they are using the phone (during school hours or late at night), and who they are communicating with most frequently.

6

Wait before answering

Instruct your child not to answer calls or text messages from numbers they don't recognize. If it is important, the caller will leave a message and then he can decide how to respond. Explain how to block calls from unwanted numbers.

7

Pre-program numbers

To help keep your kids safe, make sure their cell phones have all important phone numbers pre-programmed into it so they can always get a hold of someone if they’re in trouble.

8

Stay organized

Always keep your child's cell phone charger in the same place. It's best to find a central location — like maybe the kitchen counter, or a table by the door. Mark the end of the monthly billing cycle on a calendar to remind her how long those dwindling minutes have to last.

9

Protect privacy

Tell your teen to use caution when giving out a phone number. Make sure they don't publicize their number on the Internet or social sites like Facebook.

10

Be careful about download overload

Fun ringtones, games and backgrounds — oh my! But, be careful. These features can come with potential bugs or hidden fees.

More about kids and cell phones

5 Reasons why your kids should have cell phones
Kids and cell phones: What you need to know
Cell phone safety tips for kids, tweens and teens

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