Safe Cell Phone Use Requires Vigilance from Parents
Michelle VanBueren writes that with great technology comes great responsibility — and that parents need to help keep kids safe with mobile phones.
By Michelle VanBueren
Cell phones. Find a household without one. Can’t? Not surprising.
Look at these statistics provided by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
75% of children between the ages of 12 and 17 have cell phones. Of that number, 72% send an average of 1,500 text messages a month. Older teenage girls send 38% more texts and boys of the same age group.
And according to an abcnews.com article by Cristen Conger, “As of 2009, 20 percent of kids between six and 11 years old had a cell phone, according to a Mediamark survey. Moreover, cell phone ownership has increased most dramatically over the past five years -– 80.5 percent -– among ten- to 11-year olds.”
The main concern for parents of cell phone wielding students is “sexting.” Sexting is a term used for sending or receiving an inappropriate or explicit message, picture or video. A survey conducted by SpectorSoft, a company that develops monitoring products for Computer, Internet and mobile phone users in business, education, government, and homes, indicated that 49% of parents polled said their children had received a sext message or picture, and that 21% had been a victim.
Kate Rogers, in a Fox Business article, quotes Lisa Shaw, who is the senior director of Child Safety at SpectorSoft, as saying, “There’s not much time between the impulse and pushing the ‘send’ button. The judgment is very poor with tweens and teens. We have seen people in our government making these mistakes and there is that fine line between what’s funny and appropriate and what isn’t.”
And sexting isn’t the only cell phone worry. On the home page of Keep Your Family Safe Online is this staggering statistic: 43% of children have been victims of cyber bullying and 79% of cyber bullying cases escalate to higher levels of harassment.
Then there’s cheating. A savvy cell phone user can text for answers, Google information or take a digital image of a test or quiz — all in the blink of an eye, without anyone noticing.
So, what is a well meaning parent to do? The point of having the cell phone was to stay in touch, to be accessible, right?
Ruth Peters, a clinical psychologist, who appeared on the Today Show, has some useful, doable tips for parents who don’t want cell phone usage to run amok.
First, she suggests you contact your cell phone service provider to learn what usage controls they offer. Many providers offer those services for free.
She also reiterates one theme: Check, check and re-check. Check the messages and images on the phone. Check the numbers called. Check how the media is being used on smart phones. And don’t stop checking until “Things get boring.”
We as parents (the providers of the cell phone), have to continue to communicate with our children about responsible cell phone use. Be engaged. And fearless.
With great technology comes great responsibility.
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