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June 28, 2016

Teens and Cell-Phones: 3 Safety Tips for Parents

zac morris

Remember the days when you had to pay to use a phone, had to hand-write a letter, or physically talk to someone face-to-face? Well, those days are long gone!

Today, smartphones are a driving force behind many aspects of the adult world.  For teens, however, the devices quite literally shape their world.  Nearly 75 percent of youth (ages of 12-17) now own a cell phone!  This means that the majority of the adolescent and teen population has immediate access to the entire world – all at their fingertips!

 While cell phones can be extremely useful for adults and youth, there is a degree of danger that comes included – free of charge.  It is important to be aware of the risks associated with allowing your child to have their own device, and to develop a plan for how you will handle issues that may arise.

Potential Dangers of Teens with Cell Phones

  • Cyber Bullying: This occurs when a cell phone is used to embarrass, harass, threaten, and/or degrade someone else online, through outlets such as Facebook or Twitter.  Teens feel protected by their screens, so they believe anything they say is “just words”.   Cyber-bulling has been on the rise in recent years, and has played a major role in many situations related to suicide/attempted suicide.  
  • Digital Dating Abuse: This occurs when abusers try to control their partners with tactics like constant text messaging and phone calls.  Often, the abuse is kept hidden from the victim’s parents.  As many as 20 to 30 percent of teenagers have admitted to being harassed and insulted digitally, in addition to receiving unwanted sexual demands, via their cell phone.
  • Sexting: This form of communication involves the exchange of graphic images (of themselves or others) and/or pornographic videos over text message or instant message services. Sexting is a rising problem in the school system, and can even result in steep legal consequences if both parties aren’t old enough to legally consent.
  • Cheating: Cell phones have made cheating in school a common-place tactic.  With capabilities to take pictures, save notes containing information, and access the Internet, students are cheating themselves out of an education by accessing answers at the drop of a hat!

 

3 Safety Tips for Parents

1. Consider each child individually. 

Rather than setting a certain age for all of your children to expect their first cell-phone, come up with a list of ways in which each child can exhibit the necessary level of responsibility/maturity for having a personal device.  This will allow you to fairly and effectively gauge each child’s readiness, and provide an open line of communication for discussing safety.

2. Communicate your expectations, and stick to them.

Set usage limits, as well as privacy limits, for your child.  Examples of such limits include:

  • Limiting the daily amount of time that he is allowed to spend on the device;
  • Placing restrictions on which apps, games, and websites are accessible to him;
  • Requiring access to the device at your request, including any/all passcodes that may be set within apps that are installed on his phone.

3. Continuously remain aware.

Don’t recognize a number on your bill, or a new name on the phone?  Make sure that you consistently communicate with your child about who he is talking to, especially if the times of contact are questionable – for example, if he only contacts a certain number when he isn’t around you.

While no parent can protect their child in a fool-proof manner, it is certainly possible to reduce the likelihood that they will fall prey to the dangers and risks associated with cell-phone use.  Be on the look-out soon for our next article on this topic, as we get acquainted with the top 10 most dangerous apps for teens.

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