Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Are kids sexting in the back seat of the car?

On average, children in the United States are only 12 when they acquire their first cell phone; in fact, two thirds of them (ages 10-19) have phones. This electronic leash may give parents a sense of relief – they can get a hold of their children whenever they need to, and kids can call home more frequently. There are, however, a plethora of dangers that present themselves with the widespread use of this technology.

Ways to keep your child’s cell phone safe, by

There are many steps that parents can take to secure their child’s iPhone, most available through the built in restrictions under general settings. If you follow these steps, your child will enjoy a safer and more connected summer.
  • Restrict opening the iPhone with a passcode lock. Use something easy for your child to remember, like the month and date of their birthday. This will prevent anyone from gaining any personal information stored on the phone if it is lost or stolen. They can even set the iPhone to delete all data after ten failed attempts.

  • Right below the passcode lock there is a tab marked “Restrictions.” From there, the parent or guardian can disable certain applications with a different password that is known only to you. Here are the apps parents can disable and why they might consider doing so:

  1. Explicit lyrics on the iPod app: disable if you are concerned about your child listening to profane or violent music, as well as podcasts and videos downloaded from iTunes.
  2. Safari: Disable if you don’t want your child to have unrestricted access to the internet. You can allow your children to access the internet and still block unwanted or objectionable content by downloading Safe Eyes Mobile, which replaces the Safari browser with a custom-filtered browser set to your specifications.
  3. YouTube: Disable if you are concerned with racy or pornographic content
  4. iTunes: Disable if you are concerned about your child downloading music, videos, or podcasts, and running up a bill (this only works if the child has an apple store account with a valid credit card.)
  5. Installing apps: Most people believe that there aren’t any racy or inappropriate apps available in the App Store due to apple’s rigorous screening process, but some racy apps have made it through, such as an app that delivers half-naked shots of women to the phone, as well as apps that have “Easter eggs,” which are a coding term for hidden features not disclosed during the approval process.
  6. Camera: Sexting (the sending of pornographic images or content through text) is a growing problem in both moral and legal terms, and if you are concerned your child may be engaging in sexting, disable the camera. Doing so will at least prevent parents and their children from being held liable for images taken from their child’s iPhone.

  • Have your children charge their phones in a common room away from their bedrooms, to prevent unsupervised activity at night.

  • Download Safe Eyes Mobile: by using Safe Eyes Mobile, and being careful about what apps they let their children use, parents can provide all of the wonderful connectivity and functionality standard on the iPhone without the worry that comes with an Internet-enabled device.

  • Talk to your kids: Parents providing their children with an advanced device like an iPhone are granting their children a great privilege. There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting the child know the iPhone is a privilege that can be taken away if it is abused. Set boundaries for using the device, talk about what is and isn’t appropriate for your child to look at (and how to deal with strangers online), as well as the many other topics covered in the gameplan. After all, it’s the same internet, just a different screen.

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