Keeping Kids With Smartphones Safe

Letting kids have cell phones so they can stay connected with you when they’re hustling between soccer practice and piano lessons, or hanging out with their friends at the mall, can be a smart decision. However, there are some things to keep in mind, particularly before you hand over a web-enabled device, such as a smartphone, to a curious and likely much savvier user of technology than you may realize.

While being able to stay in touch is a good thing, various issues can come up when your child gets a smartphone, which is a cell phone with advanced features such as Internet access, including the ability to download games and video, and the ability to make purchases, just like a regular computer. Using the extra features of these kinds of phones costs more and can run up your phone bill very quickly if limits are not set up front, access is not restricted, or the right plan is not chosen.

Popular smartphones include BlackBerry, iPhones, Droid and Palm phones as well as other devices, and usually start around $100 and go up from there. A data plan is usually required, which runs around $15 to $30 and up, depending on the amount data used. (If your child is watching a lot of movies and YouTube videos on his or her phone, for example, you should probably opt for an “unlimited” data plan or you may have an unwelcome surprise in your next phone bill.) If you don’t want your child to run up the bill, you may want to price texting packages as this is a very common way for kids to communicate once they have a phone. Picture and video texting is easy to do and pricey if you don’t already have an unlimited plan set up with your phone company. (For example, texting plans often add just $5 to a monthly bill, whereas if you were charged for individual texts it could run 5 cents or more per SMS message, or text – 25 cents or more for MMS (photo) messages).

Internet access is usually covered by data plans, which are another additional charge with the standard phone plans. Since smartphones are designed to connect to the Internet, you’ll want to make sure you either choose an appropriate plan or disable this functionality, which usually requires a call to your provider. Carriers such as Verizon are starting to require that data plans be purchased on any phone capable of connecting to the Internet, even if you don’t plan to use it for that. This comes into play if your child wants a slide-out keyboard for texting, because it is becoming increasingly harder to find an affordable phone with a camera and keyboard that doesn’t force you into a data plan.

Smartphones are vulnerable to viruses, Trojans, and worms just like a standard personal computer, so it’s important to help set up your child’s phone first as well as make sure they understand there are risks associated with having that much access. Make sure your child follows the same security rules that apply when using the Internet from a laptop or home PC: Don’t give out personal information, avoid explicit sites, and other rules your family has decided upon.

You’ll also want to go over your bill carefully each month to make sure you aren’t getting dinged with extra charges for features you didn’t realize were being used. When cell phone usages restrictions are ignored or misunderstood, the overages can run into the hundreds, even thousands of dollars – your kid could be doing extra chores for the rest of his natural life! (On a serious note, if this happens to you, be sure to attempt to negotiate with the cell phone carrier, which may be willing to reduce the excess charges on a one-time basis. A common resolution is to “meet in the middle,” where the carrier cuts the bill in half but you’re still on the hook for the other half.)

In addition to having many advanced features, smartphones are dubbed as such because they can contain so much personal information. Misplacing or losing a smartphone can be a big a problem as losing a laptop.

Making sure you have good communication with your kids in person will help ensure their safety when they’re out in the real world with their smartphone.

One Response to “Keeping Kids With Smartphones Safe”

  1. Ryan says:

    I had a basic qwerty keyboard fone when i was 10, now i have a droid and im 12, plus i pay for my dataplan- $30 a month unlimited

Leave a Reply