A recent study from Common Sense Media showed that 66% of parents felt that their teens spent way too much time on their mobile devices. With teens and students spending so much time on their smartphones, many parents are wondering how they can keep their child safe when giving them access to a mobile device. We asked 11 experts to share teen cell phone best practices and their favorite tools, tips, and resources for safe smartphone use.
Learn how to create a teen cell phone agreement, how to have an open dialogue with your teen, and how to introduce the responsibility of having a smartphone early.
- Create a teen cell phone agreement Varda Epstein, Kars4Kids, @EpaVard
Make a smartphone agreement specifying:
- Whether the phone goes to school
- When phone use is allowed
- Appropriate online behavior
- That monitoring software is non-negotiable
- That the smartphone can be confiscated for poor behavior
- That the phone be checked in at meal times and before bedtime
A recent study found that children aren’t getting enough sleep due to smartphone use. The light from phone screens interferes with melatonin production and the sleep-wake cycle. Kids also text throughout the night leading to interrupted sleep. This is affecting health, behavior, and school performance.
Waqas Khan, PureVPN, @Waqas_tweets
While the ownership of smartphone among students has increased, the security risks associated with using it are greater than before. Students tend to share more through the usage of messaging services rather than phone calls or e-mail. This, in turn, increases the vulnerability of their sensitive information which is present in the form of chat logs, pictures, voice notes, videos, check-ins etc. The best way to counter this threat is to teach students to only send messages and pictures that they think are a positive representation of themselves. Also, avoid downloading fishy messaging apps which require a lot of permissions before downloading.
Keeping your information – whether it’s school information or personal information – safe and secure is a concern for most students. Whilst a passcode is used on almost all smartphones, four digit numbers and simple dot connections can be dangerous in the wrong hands putting important and confidential data and files in jeopardy.
There are apps out there that offer a second level of security and many even allow to pick and choose which apps and data require additional protection. Also known as vault apps, the majority can erase protected data after a number of unsuccessful login attempts if you take regular backups.
The most simple yet most effective recommendation I can give students, with regards to being ‘smartphone safe,’ is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN, for short). A VPN is a lightweight, non-technical app that you can have downloaded and run on your smartphone in less than 60 seconds. By connecting to a VPN you will instantly encrypt your online data and activity to a military-grade level. This places a huge amount of protection on your online data — and identity — privacy. Using a VPN on your smartphone is a fundamental practice in today’s online privacy-invasive climate.
Students should create a pin or password, for their phones, and shouldn’t share it— the longer the passcode is, the better. Only download apps from trusted sources like the Apple Store and Google Play. Backup regularly to multiple locations, such as a computer and cloud service. Keep the OS and apps current with the latest updates—these often include security improvements. Shut down Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections when not in use. Do not use public Wi-Fi to conduct business. Check privacy settings for apps before installation. Install a locator app to find your phone if misplaced and another app to remotely wipe your phone if lost or stolen.
Students and parents should set up student accounts to require parental approval for app downloads and purchases. Never use a smartphone to take private photos – even with Snapchat. Allow your parents to follow you on social media. Use a unique passcode to lock the smartphone and don’t share your passcode. A teen cell phone should never be shared. Save other passwords in a secure app like 1Password (not in Notes). Require two-step authentication whenever possible. Do not automatically disclose locations to others. Monitor and follow school policies for smartphones and, understand there is no real anonymity on the Internet.
The best way to be safe on smartphones is to avoid too many social apps. While it is important to maintain an online social life, it should be with others that you know, rather than others simply online. Maintain social profiles in a professional way that you can be proud of.
Students hoping to catch fraudulent activity should check their phone bill on a monthly basis for rogue charges. Only 32% of U.S. mobile subscribers regularly check their bill and wouldn’t know if they’ve been targeted by a hacker tapping into their messaging, data or calls. Hackers can easily steal millions from cell phone bills by simply taking a minimal amount from a lot of people. Not so bad if it’s $1, but terrible if repeated, or gives hackers access to personal data. If students notice unexpected charges, they are encouraged to reach out to their cell phone provider to report the issue.
Jeff Clark, Clark School
The best way to keep children safe on their smartphone or other device says is to make sure as a parent you are constantly checking those devices. This lets kids know that those devices aren’t theirs. They are able to use them because their parents provide them. Parents often forget that liability falls on their shoulders and not the shoulders of the children that they are handing the devices to. Only by keeping an open dialogue and letting students know that you’re involved will the students be safe.
Always use a pin or thumbprint to access the smartphone. Kids are notoriously bad at responsibility and phones can be stolen, especially at school. Encourage students to not use wifi hotspots or public networks to save data. Teach them how to spot fraudulent text messages and calls, and not to respond to them.
Have an Internet contract and limit or forbid social media platforms where communication disappears after sending. It’s not only unsafe because of predators, but it can also be hard to prove or track cyber-bullying. Have your student ask to install any app and delete any apps they aren’t using (as some apps gather data to sell to marketers). Use privacy settings on apps to manage what personal information is shared and who sees it – and turn off any permissions that aren’t absolutely necessary. Lastly, talk early and often to them about the pitfalls of sharing intimate photos with ANYONE, even people they trust and how those situations can go horribly wrong.
Lemi-Ola Erinkitola, The Critical Thinking Child
When your child is given their first smartphone, it becomes an instant source of social entertainment. Teach students that their smartphone should be protected and cared for. By presenting the phone as something that is to be protected, it will introduce the concept of being responsible and smart about using it right off the bat.