By Perri O. Blumberg, REDBOOK
Want even more help in navigating the realm of phone safety for your children? Read these handy tips from SafetyWeb.com's PR specialist, Amy Noder, adapted here.
1. Cater phone functionality to age. If your child is under 10, they probably don't need a phone with unlimited social networking or email capabilities. Likewise, the actual phone itself doesn't need built-in features like a web browser or video messaging. For a young child, look for basic phones. Review all pre-programmed apps and phone capabilities beforehand.
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2. Use parental controls. If your child's cell phone has access to the Internet, see what your service provider offers and consider enabling them. Have your kids password protect their phone and enact controls like web browsing limits, allowances on talk, and text - and auto-wipe of data if your child's phone is lost or stolen.
3. Pre-program numbers. To help keep your kids safe, make sure their cell phones have all important phone numbers pre-programmed so they can always reach someone quickly if they're in trouble.
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4. Screen all calls. Instruct your child not to answer calls or text messages from numbers they don't recognize. Explain that if it's important, the caller will leave a message and then he can decide how to respond. It's easy to do: Just find out your carrier's call block code, typically, "*" followed by two numbers and show your child how to block unwanted numbers.
5. Limit Usage. Designate time slots for talking - perhaps after homework and chores are completed, or before dinner. Don't let constant calls interrupt family time. It's also easy for a chatty teen to cuddle up to a phone at bedtime, so check periodically.
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6. Consider Monitoring Services. Maybe your child is older, but you're still not comfortable with him or her texting and emailing unmonitored. SafetyWeb provides parents with comprehensive alerts and reports on their child's cell phone calls and text message activity. This allows you to keep track of when they are using the phone (during school hours or late at night), and who they are communicating with most frequently.
7. Practice Privacy. Tell your teen to use caution when giving out a phone number. Make sure they don't publicize their number on the Internet or social sites like Facebook.
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8. Be Careful of Download Overload. Fun ringtones, games, and backgrounds - oh my! But be careful. These features come with potential bugs or hidden fees. A lot of kids will want to sign up for every app but limit them to a couple of favorites and make sure they understand those privacy policies thoroughly.
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Permissions: Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.