Protecting Your Children in an Age of Smartphones

Time has passed since the original cellphone, though I am sure many of us remember them. Enormous, inconvenient and barely able to make calls, they were more trouble than a payphone. They were also extremely expensive, and not worth the briefcase they had to be carried in. But things have changed and the smartphones of today are more powerful than we ever could have imagined, while still being easy enough for even a child to use.

But with so many of our children involved in the smartphone craze there is a new worry: who is protecting them? We have all heard the horror stories, or seen the inappropriate content floating around the web. All of this is accessible and at their fingertips, and in a device that is harder to monitor than the average computer. But they also have more freedom through their smartphones, and so it is important to follow a few safety guidelines to ensure they don’t get into trouble, face any internet privacy issues, or just see something you don’t want them to.
Use Parental Setting

Woman using Windows Mobile device in park with child

There are plenty of ways to limit what can be viewed on any smartphone. The default settings are almost always lax on security, and so before the device is handed over to your child make sure you have gone through the user controls. For example, if you have an Apple product you can use iTunes to go into the parental settings and limit what songs, TV shows and movies can be downloaded or viewed. You can also put a filter on the default browser (generally Safari) in order to blacklist certain websites.

Search engines can be customized, such as through Google where you select Settings, and then select how much adult material can be allowed through the results. You can also ban this material on Ask, Yahoo!, Bing, Lycos and other search engines all over the web. While this will have no affect on URL’s, it will minimize some of the risk associated with using these searches.

You can also download a safe browser or an application that locks out certain content. These cost money but not that much, usually between $3.99 and $19.99. The Apple app store has plenty to choose from, but a simple search will bring up dozens of third-party iPhone applications that can be purchased and used.
Set Boundaries

Not all safety has to be based on technology. Sometimes just sitting down with your child and telling them what you expect of them is enough. Be clear on what it is you don’t want them sharing or viewing, and make it clear that their smartphone comes with the same rules as their television, music, movie or computer rights. These rules should also have clear consequences, which you should discuss at the time of handing over the smartphone.

Regularly checking their phone to ensure nothing inappropriate is being done with it may be necessary. While we all wish we could trust our children until they prove otherwise, that is sadly not always the case. When it comes down to it, the media has shown us how easily a child can be persuaded into doing something potentially harmful. For example, ‘sexting’ and sending suggestive or even pornographic images is common among teens, and it is more important than ever to make it clear that just because it is not physical does not mean it doesn’t have ramifications.
Be Smart

Things have changed and so the context of safety has shifted. But common sense can still be applied, and smartphones should be approached like any other new advance in technology has been. As parents, we have to be just as adaptable as the devices our children have use of, in order to stay a step ahead of what could harm them and their development. There are plenty of ways to keep them safe, as long as you are prepared to approach the issue head on.

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