Friday, August 5, 2011

Parents - Cell Phone Useage

Cell Phone Parental Controls

Although much of the focus concerning internet dangers has been on computers, few parents seem to realize that many of today's cell phones are basically mini-computers when it comes to the kind of access they provide to the internet. Take, for example, the iPhone, which includes an e-Mail application, web browser, and an application to watch videos on YouTube. Kids can also use it to send text messages, take and send each other photos, and of course, talk.

How do you supervise and protect your kids when they are using a 'smart phone,' especially when it has access to the internet?

The first thing you should do is learn how to turn on and use whatever parental controls are included with the cell phone, however limited they may be. This might include parental control software that is actually part of the cell phone and others that can be added as features of your cell phone carrier.

  • AT&T, for example, offers a 'Smart Limits for Wireless Parental Controls' feature for an extra fee a month that allows you to restrict when a phone can be used, block or allow certain numbers that your child can send/receive calls and text messages to and from, and restrict inappropriate content, etc. This service doesn't work with the iPhone though, which includes its own parental control software.
  • Verizon (Verizon Usage Controls and Content Filters), T-Mobile (Family Allowances and Web Guard), and other cell phone carriers offer similar services.
  • Many cell phone carriers also have services to let you locate your child at any time if they have a supported phone. For example, the Verizon Family Locator service (formerly called Chaperone) will let you view your child's location and can even send you a text message when they arrive or leave a certain location, such as school or a friend's house. AT&T (AT&T Family Map) and Sprint (Sprint Family Locator) offer similar services.
  • Did you know that you can monitor your teen's text messages too?
  • While there is mobile spy software that you can secretly install on your child's iPhone or Windows mobile based smart phone, such as Mobile Spy, that monitor text messages and phone calls, cell phone carriers don't provide this service themselves, no matter what some parents may report. SMobile Parental Controls is another program that can monitor what your child is doing with his phone, including allowing you to view your teen's pictures, text messages, emails, and location, etc.

Spying on your kids is very rarely a good idea though, and if you use this type of software, you should actually let your teen know that you might be reading some of his texts or emails as a condition of having the phone. If you don't trust your child to use his phone, then he either shouldn't have a phone, you should turn off the cell phone's internet access or ability to send text messages, or get him a basic phone that doesn't have these types of features until he earns your trust.

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