Children should be taught smartphone safety

Cass Rains | Enid News & Eagle

ENID (TNS) — Many parents may be considering getting their child a smartphone for the holidays, or perhaps getting themselves a new one and passing down their old device.

U.S. Cellular recently conducted a survey last year regarding children and cellphones and found parents are giving children their first phones at a younger age.

• First phone use — On average, parents began letting children use their smartphones or tablets at age 8.

• Appropriate age — Respondents said that an appropriate age for a child to get a first cellphone is 13, down from 14 years old just five years ago.

• Average age — 58 percent of parents surveyed had children with cellphones and the average age of the child when receiving their first phone was 11 years old.

• Reason for getting a phone — Safety was the top reason for getting children their own cellphone, with 59 percent of respondents listing it as the most important factor.

• Monitoring phones — Three out of four parents frequently monitor their child’s cellphone usage.

• Family rules —The majority of parents, 77 percent, have rules and guidelines for their child’s cellphone usage.

“At U.S. Cellular, we understand the importance of family conversations around cellphone use, especially around the holidays when children might be getting their first device,” said Jeff Heeley, director of sales, corporate-owned channel for U.S. Cellular in Oklahoma.

“That’s why we’ve created a framework called the Parent Child Agreement, to make the conversation easier to start.”

If parents do decide to give a child a cellphone, U.S. Cellular encourages them to visit www.childphoneagreement.com to create their very own customized agreement, helping establish parameters and family guidelines for cellphone use.

Enid Police Department Sgt. Nick John offered tips for parents and those responsible for monitoring a child’s cellphone use.

• Determine whether your child is old enough and mature enough to have access to computers and smartphones or to the Internet.

• Have frequent conversation with your child about the importance of good behavior online.

• Explain to children and teens not everyone is who they present themselves to be online.

• Don’t text out inappropriate pictures.

• Once you hit send on an image, you can never get it back.

• Conduct random checks of children’s social media accounts, phones and other web browsing history.

• Check photos, what they are sending out and what they are receiving. Check photo vaults.

• Pay attention to what apps they are installing on their phone.

• Lock their phones or install parental controls where a password is required.

• Set firm ground rules and stick to them.

“With the advancement of cellphone cameras and school media apps, the number of cases we’re seeing where children are sending inappropriate pictures of them selves are on the rise,” John said. “We need to explain to our kids that once that photo is sent there is no bringing it it back, even if you delete it off your phone or the app. That photo is out there somewhere.”

John also warned parents to pay attention to the apps children are installing and using.

Some apps do not store images sent or received on the phone.

Parents should know what each app is, how it functions and what its intended purpose is.

“Communicate with your kids, talk to them, explain to them the rules of the phone and what they can and cannot do online,” he said. “With most of these smartphone available today, and with the internet in the palm of your hand, access to the internet and the people on the internet is very easy.

“But children should be warned not everyone one the internet is who they portray themselves to be.”