Back in the 1990’s when I was raising my daughter, having to worry about the use of a smartphone and bullying and privacy was not a huge concern as we didn’t have a smartphone at the time – just our home phone. Having two teenage sons; however, that have grown up during the era of smartphones and social media, has brought about many dangers and obstacles.
Be Aware of Fake Accounts
Fake accounts set up to look as though the messages are coming from one person but are actually coming from one or more other people is something we have dealt with. Most times, the person “allegedly” sending the messages has no idea that a fake account is set up in their name and being used to bully, harass or threaten others.
Teach Them What Is and Is Not Acceptable
Ever since my boys have had an online presence on social media and in using their phones, the one point that I have tried to drill into their brains is not to post anything on social media or in chat rooms or online anywhere that they would not want their grandparents or parents to see. Does it work? No, not always. There have been things that they posted that I have made them remove from social media because they were inappropriate, and that has taught them as well what is and is not acceptable.
Know What – and Whom – Your Kids Are Texting
We all know that tempers flair and sometimes things are texted in the heat of the moment out of anger. 20 years ago, it would not have been an issue. Nowadays, however, bullying via text message or threats to harm another can be considered a felony and your children can be incarcerated for sending a text message. Been there, done that too.
Your kids can be charged with a felony for sending that text message. #Parents need to know what their kids are #texting because #criminalcharges and #jailtime can be a result of that simple text. https://t.co/4gSQvwfjD1 pic.twitter.com/jdlt6ch5bC
— Kim Miller (@KimAtLiah) March 21, 2018
In addition, the person they “think” they are texting may not be that person at all – it could be undercover law enforcement, a pedophile, a scam artist – caution is of utmost importance when texting anything to anyone. Text messages can be screenshot and saved and used in court against your child.
Talk to Your Children
Sit down with them and explain your rules for the use of their smartphones, as well as what the laws are in your state. We were blindsided and did not know the law and as a result spent a little over a year and a half in court because of it. Explain what the consequences are for breaking the household rules for their phone usage and if necessary, print out a reminder to hang on the family message board or to keep in the Fridge Gallery.
Talk to Other Parents
In our family, we prefer to handle things personally – parent-to-parent – instead of involving the law when something occurs due to a smartphone with one of our boys. Know who your kids are friends with, send a friend request to their parents on social media if you don’t have their phone number. Talk to them at a school function and exchange phone numbers – or simply host a get together for the parents to talk and the kids to hang out. It is much easier to settle a problem parent-to-parent and child-to-child than it is when the law becomes involved. Been there, done that too.
In addition to what we have stated above, we have an infographic below on how to protect your children on their smartphones from our friends at fixapplenow.com/news/.
Please click here to view a larger version
Utilize a Tracking App
I pay $3 a month for the Life360 Family Locator app. Both of my boys know that they are not allowed out of the house unsupervised if this app is not on their phone. It’s a deal breaker in our home. No app, no going out. It allows me to see where they are at all times, and you can set alerts on your phone to notify you when a member of the family leaves and/or arrives at a certain destination. It is well worth the peace of mind it affords me in being able to account for their whereabouts (and have a record of it) at any given moment of any given day.
While there are many more topics to cover on the subject of smartphone usage with your children – such as privacy, etiquette, protecting their information – we hope you’ve found these tips helpful in putting together your own family safety plan when it comes to the use of smartphones by your children.