Welcome to the next generation! We are no longer surrounded by little machines that simply maintain the distance connection from kids to mom and dad. Today is the age of the small and surprisingly powerful smartphones. If you have decided to only allow “dumb phones” in your home, there are some basic cell phone concepts and considerations you can implement. If your family has a collection of phones that do everything except the dishes – read on!
Cell Phones (the simple ones)
What you and your children need to know about cell phones:
Our culture has a strong love/hate relationship with cell phones. Although we love being connected all the time, with the world at our fingertips- we also hate the constant attachment, lack of time being “unplugged” and the negative connotations that have bombarded young people through this relatively small, seemingly harmless device. If your child has a cell phone, there are several ways you can help them use this tool responsibly, while avoiding high-risk behavior.
1. Keep track of calls and texts. It is absolutely critical that you check through your monthly bill and note the following: who they were talking to, how often were they talking, and when the calls/texts were placed. If you are not familiar with the phone numbers- call the number. Don’t just take your child’s word for it. If your child has a close group of friends that you approve of them talking to, have them make a “friend phone list” so that you can become familiar with friends’ phone numbers.
2. Check cell phones in at night. To avoid tempting situations, have your child turn in their phones at night, and keep them safe with you until morning.
3. Disable internet. Although the “trendy” phones come fully loaded with all sorts of internet features, we strongly recommend cell phones without internet capability for young people. The phones of today’s world have pornography accessible in less than three clicks, not to mention all of the “apps” and gadgets that are available free for purchase.
4. Don’t be afraid to pull the plug. If your child repeatedly breaks your family’s cell phone rules, don’t be afraid to take it away.
5. Do not put a texting plan on your phone. If your child is an excessive text-er, remove the texting plan, and hold your child responsible for the charges. On most cell phone plans, texting is 10 cents to receive a text and 10 cents to send a text. After a while, those charges can really add up.
Smartphones (of all sizes and platforms)
- From the main iPhone/iPod/iPad screen choose the “Settings” option
- Click on “General”
- Next, choose “Restrictions” to turn that feature on (if it is not already on – you will also be required to enter a 4-digit passcode that you setup)
- In the Restrictions menu, you will then drag the slider under the “Safari” option to “OFF”. In this menu, there are other important features you can shut off as well, including content ratings, turning off YouTube, iTunes downloads and installing other applications.
This is another reason to have a family iTunes account so that you can see any time an app is downloaded and make sure that the device is kept in step with your family media agreement. The iCloud service from Apple can be useful to track the content and location of these devices.
MobiCip is another alternative to managing the iDevices, the app only costs $4.99 and then you can get advanced remote monitoring features for $9.99 per year. Click here for more info on MobiCip.
- Kindle Fire
- Other tablets (iPad alternatives)
- Samsung smartphones
- HTC smartphones
- Motorola smartphones
- LG smartphones
- Any smartphone that’s not a Blackberry or an iPhone
So what are your options with these devices? Because of the nature of the Android operating system (anyone can design an app and put it in the Google Play Store for download) there are many different options you can use. The most popular parental control apps on the market today are:
*PhoneControl – Enables forwarding for almost anything your child does on their phone once installed (ex. SMS, MMS, calls, whatsapp, emails, etc.). You find the settings of the app by dialing a special number into the phone as if you were dialing a shortcode.
*Life360 – Most popular GPS tracking app for android. Keep track of your family without even having to dial their number.
If you would like to purchase a complete app and support a company that is working 24/7 to help parents, then we highly recommend eBlaster Mobile from SpectorSoft. Click the link for more information!
The content. In regards to content we want to remind you that just because your kid’s favorite series is the Boxcar Children, that doesn’t mean that he can’t read other books or snippets. Left unchecked, he can access books from millions of authors via the Kindle’s built-in bookstore. Here are 3 ways to monitor the content on the device:
- Do not leave wifi password in kindle so they can’t access Amazon store via your home wireless network. This only works if the Kindle is one of the non-3G models.
- Register the kindle, download books they want, de-register it. This means that you will be registering and de-registering constantly, but you will know exactly what is on the device and restrict the access to the Kindle store by not having the device affiliated with an account.
- Set up rules and explain to them that they are not allowed to order books without mom or dad’s permission. If they do, Kindle will be MIA for a period of time. You will receive an email everytime a book is purchased on your account so you will know immediately if the rules have been broken.
Their expanding capabilities. The newest family of Kindles are expanding their capabilities to allow greater connectivity via the world wide web. These browsers while slow, clunky, and black and white, can access and browse the internet. Because of how few people use this method of browsing, there are not many options for filtering. Again, we recommend taking the device off your wifi network and establishing clear expectations up front. As of September 25, 2012 parental controls (password access to the Kindle store, archives, and web browsing) has been added to the Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle Basic, but not to the Touch.
The Latest on Kindle – the Paperwhite
Parental Controls on the new Paperwhite allow you to restrict access to the Kindle Store, Cloud, and Experimental Web Browser so you can give Kindle Paperwhite to a child “worry-free”.