Smartphones aren't just for adults anymore. Now, many kids are using or own smartphones. While smartphones can be great vehicles for education and connectivity, smartphones come with features that kids might not be ready for yet. As with most advancements in your child's world, giving them a smartphone or tablet demands a new level of responsibility. So before you hand your child a new smartphone, read on for some simple ways to help protect your kids' mobile experience.
Hold a family meeting. Schedule some face time with your child to discuss the family terms of agreement for their new smartphone or tablet. The best time to tackle this is while the device is still in the box, before they're off downloading the latest version of Angry Birds. Make them aware of the risks associated with using a mobile device such as malicious apps, phishing links, texting spam and unsafe websites.
Set a password. Setting a passcode on your child's phone serves as a first line of defense. If the phone is lost or stolen, snoopers will have a harder time accessing personal information. Just make sure you know what the passcode is.
Guide kids to make smart downloads. Ask your child to run apps they want to download by you for approval and check to see that the app is made by a reputable developer. Even better, download apps only from trusted sources, like the Apple Store and Google Play. Introduce your kids to educational and helpful apps, helping to create a balanced mobile world. Having a security app installed will serve as an extra layer of protection against downloading a bad app, if your child makes an impulsive download.
Teach them to safely surf. Just because your child appears to be digitally savvy, logging many more hours online than you, don't assume they've got it all under control. Ensure that your child understands the risks of surfing the mobile Web and how smaller screen sizes make it harder to discern fraudulent sites. Tell your child not to go to a website they don't know and ask them to check a site in question with you before visiting.
Consider a texting allowance. Kids 11 to 14 spend, on average, 73 minutes a day texting, and the average teen sends more than 50 texts a day. While texting gives you a way to have quick communication with your kids, it also opens the door to excessive and unsupervised conversations with friends and strangers. To thwart over-texting, work with your mobile provider. They often offer plans that cap the amount of texts allowed and notify an account owner when a user is nearing the limit.
Alicia diVittorio is a mobile safety advocate at Lookout, a mobile security company and maker of a free app that protects your smartphone. With the Lookout app, you can find your lost phone, lock or wipe the data off your phone, back up your photos, contacts and other content, and stay protected from mobile viruses.