If you're a parent, I'm sure you'll agree that the world has changed drastically since we were kids.
We had after-school cartoons, our kids have high-tech gaming consoles. Another thing our kids have that we didn't are cell phones. And it's not just teenagers - according to consumer research done by Influence Central, the average age for children to have their first smartphone is now 10 years.
Mobile technology can be a great safety tool - children can use them to call for a ride, let parents know they've arrived safely at their destination, or to call for help in case of an emergency. Like any tool, though, smartphones also provide the opportunity for misuse. They can even make our kids vulnerable in certain situations.
What is the bottom line? Even though there are just as many concerns with cell phone use as with computer internet use, you can have the best of both worlds. With the right strategy, cell phone safety for kids is achievable. I'm going to share with you some practical guidelines and clever tools designed to give everyone in your household peace of mind.
In This Guide
Should Kids Have Cell Phones? Understanding the Risks
Every parent wants to think "my child would never behave inappropriately online" or that their kids are savvy enough to understand that certain types of smartphone activities put them at risk. The harsh reality, however, is that many children simply don't have the information they need to stay safe online. An even harsher reality is that even if we tell them what to do and what not to do, their judgment isn't always good enough to follow our advice.
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In fact, research has slowly been catching up with what rental car companies have known all along - that the rational, decision-making center of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, really isn't fully developed until about age 25. Impulse control isn't well established even in older teens, which means that we as parents need to be that much more aware as our kids get to the age when they're interacting independently with the people and the world around them. And with the average age a child receives his or her first cell phone lowering, we need to be aware of the various threats they might face.
Things that could put your child in danger through the use of their mobile phone include:
- Inappropriate internet content - according to GuardChild, a parent-run organization dedicated to keeping kids safe online, 70% of kids between ages 7 and 18 have accidentally seen pornography on the internet.
- Sexting - if you're thinking to yourself "my child would never do that", you could be wrong. In a study by Drexel University, over half of participants admitted to sexting as teens. Even more alarming is the fact that 61% of those who included nude photos in their texts were unaware that such photos can be considered child pornography under the law.
- Predators - apps like Foursquare and Facebook allow your kids to post their location. If these posts are made publicly rather than just to close friends, someone with less than honest intentions could get a hold of the information, making your child extremely vulnerable.
- Car accidents - texting while driving increases the risk of a car crash by as much as 23 times, according to research. Since young people are already at higher risk than adults for accidents, your child texting at the wheel is a recipe for disaster. Even a hands-free device can be a distraction.
Even though these statistics can be extremely intimidating when it comes to giving our children access to technology, there are things you can do to mitigate the risks. Next, I'll talk about how to set both you and your kids up for success so that you can enjoy peace of mind while they're enjoying their mobile devices.
Related: Check out The Ultimate Guide to Internet Safety for Kids