Smartphones aren’t a new phenomenon. In the U.S. nearly 60% of tweens own some kind of cell phone. 55% of U.S. teens now own a smartphone. The world of smartphones has opened up a wide vista of possibilities for communication and media consumption, but has also opened teens up to a host of ways they can get into trouble. What should parents be worried about? In addition to what is on the phone, teens spending too much time on their phones (sound familiar?) and normal teen drama, the main issues that arise from improper smartphone use fall into a few categories:
- Identity theft
- Punishment for bad behavior
- Predator risk
- Involuntary/revenge porn
Here are thirteen tips and best practices for teens (and parents) to ensure that your teen’s smartphone is used properly and safely:
- Set a password – it might seem like a hassle to have a password on your home screen, but it will be worth it if you lose your phone or if a mischievous friend or sibling grabs it
- Never use a cell phone while driving – texting or talking while driving is always a bad idea
- Don’t send anything you don’t want becoming public – it goes without saying (but is often overlooked) that even if you send a private message to a friend, that friend could resend it to someone else or post it to the internet
- No bullying – bullying is no less serious when you’re using your phone or a mobile app to do it, and in some cases school administrators will treat it as being more serious. Plus, there is lasting evidence
- Don’t give out your cell phone number without thinking about it – giving your cell phone number to strangers, or subscribing to services that require your cell phone number can open you up to spam and hackers who could be sending you malware or a virus
- Don’t overlook privacy settings – many people pay close attention to their web-based privacy settings but neglect to consider the same when it comes to mobile
- Don’t reply to anonymous texts or calls – an anonymous call could be someone trying to extract personal information. An anonymous text could be phishing
- Don’t store revealing personal info – while some apps and networks require that you post personal, identifying details to sign up for an account, don’t leave them wide open on your phone
- Think about what is saved on your phone – if your phone is lost or stolen, what info will the finder then possess? Your home address? Your little sisters’ contact info? Compromising pictures of you or a friend? Pictures from last month’s wild party? Your Amazon.com user name and password? Be careful
- Be very careful with location-based services – this is especially true for younger users. It might feel like fun to use Foursquare to check in at Dunkin Donuts every morning, but do you really want a stranger to know where you are each morning at that time?
- Don’t download apps or join networks that are not age appropriate – even though it is easy to “lie” about your age when downloading an app or joining a network, it’s not a good idea
- Download a “Find My Phone” app – free apps are available for both iOS and Andoid that will make it easy to find your phone if you lose it. Parents can also use these apps to keep track of their kids’ phones
- Cell phone activity makes it onto the internet – if you’re only doing something on your private cell phone based app like Instagram or Snapchat, don’t make the assumption that that content won’t make onto the public internet. Snapchat leaked sites, iPhoneagram and others are eager to post your content if they can get it
If there’s something we haven’t covered, leave us a message in the comments section below or email us here. We’re happy to weigh in on your individual issues if we can help.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.