Thank you to U.S. Cellular for allowing me to be a member of their Blogger Brigade. All opinions are 100% my own. Take a look at this Parent-Child Agreement if you’re looking to set some ground rules for cellular use within your family.
How safe is the Internet? It’s a question that you hear often but there’s no one size fits all answer. I’ve personally never had anything horrible happen because of internet use, but that’s not to say there have never been issues. We have had our debit card numbers stolen (and coincidentally about $500 worth of socks purchased…weird right?). But I say nothing horrible because we’ve never had weird stalker people or our kids be targeted or anything super serious. That being said, it does happen and it doesn’t necessarily only happen to people who aren’t cautious or who don’t monitor what their kids are doing online. Some of these creepers and thieves are good…they’re real good. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way and there are some things you can do to help ensure that your family’s time spent surfing the web, making friends, and buying whatever your heart desires is a little bit safer.
I know my son (14), like many children and teens, goes online for a variety of reasons, from school assignments to staying informed about the things that matter to him. Pokemon for example…I don’t get it, but evidently it’s a pretty popular thing. He’s also at the age of using social media, like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to communicate with friends. And, of course, he’s accessing entertainment online – gaming, downloading music, reading books and magazines, watching movies, TV shows and YouTube videos within the limitations that we set as a family. Given the frequency of hacking incidents, cyberbullying and phishing scams, it’s a good idea for parents to have open discussions about guidelines about what is – and isn’t – appropriate for your children to access and share online.
The average age children receive cellphones is 13, according to a recent U.S. Cellular survey. Safety is cited as the main reason for this decision. My son got his first cellphone when he was 11, but for the very same reason, safety…we live in a rural area and that’s when he began riding the bus home and being home by himself about 30-45 minutes before I arrived home from work. Since we didn’t have a landline, it was the best decision for us to make sure we had contact whenever we needed it and so far, it’s been a great decision.
Another recent study by the Pew Research Center found 92 percent of teens report going online daily, with 24 percent noting they go online “almost constantly”. While smartphones and tablets,like my Samsung Galaxy Tab that often gets commandeered by my kiddos, can enhance and simplify our lives, sometimes parents struggle with how much freedom to give their kids online. Since every family is different, U.S. Cellular’s goal is simply to be a resource for information to help parents have open communication with their kids about Internet activity so they can make the best decision for their family.
The majority of parents establish rules about their child’s cell phone usage, and seventy percent of respondents in U.S. Cellular’s most recent survey noted they always or frequently monitor their child’s cell phone use which is a great start. Some additional tips to help you monitor your children’s online activities and facilitate conversations about the use of mobile devices include:
- Have an agreement with your children. U.S. Cellular has created a Parent-Child Agreement to help guide families’ conversations about mobile phone usage. The agreement focuses on safety and etiquette, and it’s customizable based on each family’s specific needs.
- Discuss appropriate online communications: Beyond texting, increases in the use of social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have opened up new communication pathways for teens. U.S. Cellular recommends that families discuss the importance of never posting harmful or hurtful comments on others pages and always being responsible for what is said online.
- Set boundaries for online sharing. Make sure your child knows to never share personal information online. That can include their name, age, address, school and sports teams, as well as any passwords. Also, remind them to communicate only with family or friends and not to answer unsolicited requests or texts.
- Post photos appropriately: We all know how eager kids are to capture and share photos, but today’s kids don’t realize that once those images are online, they are in the public domain and can even be modified by others. Talk about guidelines for sharing photos with friends and alert them to never post photos which could contain information about where they live or be seen as inappropriate. It’s also best to not post or share photos or videos of others without their consent.
- Use parental controls. The NQ Family Guardian app is available for $4.99 a month on Android devices and provides safety and security by monitoring your children’s location and mobile usage. This service allows parents to review their child’s calls and texts, and restrict certain websites and apps. Children can even send their parents an alert with the simple press of a button if they are in trouble or find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. For iOS users, there is a wide range of parental-control options that are automatically available in iOS 9’s Settings app.
How safe do you feel the Internet is? How does your family establish rules and monitor adherence to those rules? Let me know in the comments below and thanks for reading!