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Smartphone Safety: 4 Expert Tips for Keeping Kids Safe On-and-Offline

Do you know who is texting your tween or teen? Do you know which websites your teens are visiting? What about social media? And the biggest fear of all—could a predator reach your child online?

Keeping your kids safe is more of a challenge today than ever before. The Internet has altered the way we live and has brought the world to our front door and into our homes. The Internet can be a remarkable place to learn, stay connected to others, and provide entertainment. But it also gives numerous opportunities for those who prey on the innocence of children to target victims. Cyberbullies and predators have found anonymity online.

Smartphone Safety Tips For Teens

The main objective is to protect children and keep them safe online. I suggest that parents teach their children how to stay safe online. Here are a few key steps for smartphone safety I urge parents to consider:

1. Know who is in your child’s life, online and offline. 

This is the initial step in protecting your child online and on their smartphone. Be interested in their friends and their online activities. Supervise children on the Internet just as you would monitor what movies and TV shows they watch, or what places they go with their friends. By monitoring your child’s online and cell phone activity, you can know instantly when someone new enters their life and whether it is a safe person.

2. Create an atmosphere of open communication. 

To a tween or teen, their cell phone is their lifeline. The threat of losing their phone may hinder their decision to confide in you when they experience a problem or a threat online. To ensure that your tween or teen feels comfortable sharing with you, make an agreement with your teen. You won’t take their cell phone away if they come forward with a problem or situation involving their online activity. And identify other safe adults they can confide in if anyone ever makes them feel uncomfortable, online or in person. Encourage them to look out for their friends as well, and to come forward with information that might be important to ensure the safety and well-being of any child.

3. Never spy on your child. 

Keeping them safe requires their cooperation. Set reasonable, age-appropriate rules for social networking, instant messaging, emailing, online gaming, and using webcams. Discuss with your tween or teen the dangers that exist online and how a phone can be a tool for cyberbullies and predators. Also explain the permanence of their online actions and how a poor choice made today can affect their future. Make an agreement regarding monitoring online activity that is appropriate for your child’s age and maturity level.

4. Be aware of Trojan Apps. 

The fastest growing sector of new wireless subscribers is children. Over 50 percent of all applications steal data and violate permissions after being installed. Apps on smartphones can erode privacy and reveal location based data. On Instagram for example, a stranger can map the exact location, date and time of every photo. These privacy violations can give complete strangers a very clear picture of a child’s life. They can determine where the child goes to school, where they live, what their interests are, who their friends are, and where they hang out – everything a predator would need to target a child.

The digital world we live in today exposes our children to a new set of dangers. While we may teach our children not to talk to strangers, in reality the Internet can give strangers an easy path directly into their lives. Whether it’s online gaming, social media, or exchanging text messages through apps like Text Roulette that allow kids to text with complete strangers, our children are at risk at every turn. Educating parents about these dangers is a start; putting technology solutions into their hands is the next step. Using parental monitoring software on even one child’s phone will contribute to creating a virtual safety net which will have a ripple effect of protection and may just save a child’s life someday.

Bob Lotter is CEO of eAgency Mobile Security and Chief Inventor of My Mobile Watchdog.

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