Tips and limits for Smartphones

The start of school is no longer about having the right jeans or the new shoes. A new phone is the must have fall accessory. The phone most kids want and think they need is a smartphone.

Smartphones are not really phones. Most kids will rarely use them to call anyone except for their parents. Smartphones are small, powerful computers with their own operating systems and programs. With 4G/3G networks and wi-fi, kids can connect 24/7 to surf the web, watch videos, text friends, shop online and download apps. Smartphones are a computer in their pocket.

Like a computer, parents need to establish rules for their use. Most families have rules for using a desktop computer. Families should set limits, expectations and protection for these pocket computers. If you have a new smartphone owner in the house, here are few tips to get you started.

Limits –If you would not allow a computer in the bedroom, you should also set limits on location and use of a smartphone. For example, parents may want to have the charger in a central location and the phone parked by a certain time. Families may want to set some other limits like no phones/devices at the dinner table or a mobile/device free night.

Password – A smartphone contains a lot of personal information. Some mobile apps, such as Twitter, do not allow users to log out. If someone else has the phone, they have access to all this information plus these open accounts. Parents should make sure their kids have a strong password set on their phone.

Security – Just like a computer, these phones may need virus protection. If you have an Android phone, kids can download security apps in Google Play.  iPhones have their own security but kids may want to download the Find My iPhone app to protect their phone if its lost or stolen. Most importantly, kids should not open any unknown links, emails,or messages. When from unknown source, the rule is “don’t read it, just delete it!”

Location –  Smartphones automatically embed the latitude and longitude in photos. This is called geotagging. To avoid sharing their location, kids should turn off this feature. Some phones allow users to turn off geotagging in the camera app. In the camera’s settings, kids should look for an option to turn off GPS or Location Services.  On other phones,users may need to turn off all locations services under the phone’s settings.

Share –  Smartphones share digital content easily without downloading and sometimes without even thinking. Kids should turn off apps that enable instant sharing. Sharing should be a choice not automatic. They should also be a friend and always ask permission before posting pictures or videos.

Connect  – Finally, the most important protection is turning on the computer between their ears. Make sure they understand the rules and expectations before opening that new smartphone. A great way to make sure everyone is on the same page is by developing a thoughtful family online agreement together.

If you need more smartphone tips, check out these other great resources.