Continuing our last week’s introduction to Smartphones here is FAQ section: Your questions answered.
Question: How can I help my child stay safe when accessing the internet on their smartphone?
Answer: All smartphones have internet access. This allows a wide range of app functions and it allows you to browse the web and go on social networks like Facebook. The same advice that you give your child about keeping safe online applies to smartphones. So talk to your child about the simple e-safe rules that is actual for all online devices.
Smartphones can be easy for young children to use, but this does not necessarily mean they’re ready to use them. It is worth bearing in mind that children, especially younger children, can be upset and distressed if they come across age-inappropriate material. Parental controls can be a real help and may be particularly important for younger children. For older teens it can also be a help, but it may be more appropriate to talk about dealing with peer pressure to share and watch content that is inappropriate rather than just simply blocking access to YouTube, for example.
There are several options to help limit internet capability on smartphones, so it is worth considering what would be helpful for your family. However, remember that filtering is only part of the solution and it is important to talk with your child about how they use the internet on their phone and make sure they know what to do and that they can turn to you if they get into any difficulty.
- When they are out and about, smartphone users access the internet via 3G connection which is provided by the data allowance in their mobile contract. All mobile network providers provide parental controls. Some will have these on as default, but others you will need to request to be turned on. Contact your service provider to find out about filtering options.
- It’s also possible to connect to public WiFi when out and about, with shops, cafes and restuarants increasingly offering internet access. Look out for the Friendly WiFi symbol which means the content has been filtered.
- When smartphone users are at home, they often connect to their home wireless internet (to save using up their 3G data allowance). This does mean that any filtering options set up with your mobile provider do not function. All of the major internet providers offer free filtering tools that work across all devices connected to the home internet.
Question: How can my child access music, films and TV using their smartphone?
Answer: Young people love to use their smartphones to watch TV and videos and listen to music. Just like going to the cinema or buying a CD, age ratings still apply even if you are watching a film or listening to music on a smartphone. However, as there is potentially unrestricted access to content online it can be harder to ensure that young people only access material that is appropriate for their age. This is particularly true for sites where people can upload their own videos: YouTube is hugely popular with young people, but it may contain some content which may not be age appropriate. Talk to your child about how they use their phone to access this content and explore whether any family rules or parental controls would be helpful for your child.
Question: What should I do if my child has seen something inappropriate?
Answer: Don’t overreact if your child tells you about something they have seen. It is great they have turned to you as a trusted adult. You might feel shocked and angry but by dealing with it calmly your child will know they can turn to you again.
Question: What are apps?
Answer: Apps are small, specialised software programmes which can be downloaded to a mobile device to carry out a particular function. For example, there are specific apps to play Scrabble, to go on Facebook, to check train times or to learn Spanish! Young people particularly like apps for playing games.
Question: How do I know which apps are appropriate/suitable for my child?
Answer: Apps can be downloaded in an app store either on the smartphone device or online. As some apps cost money and others may contain content that you don’t think is appropriate for your child, you could use your details to register and then decide together which apps to download. As they get older you may prefer to talk to them about the apps they are using but give them the responsibility to download apps themselves.
Familiarise yourself with the online app websites so you know what apps are out there, and perhaps you can recommend your child some fun apps! There are also apps which are tools for parents that can help filter out age inappropriate content or help restrict some of the device’s functions.
Protecting personal information
Question: How can I help my child protect personal information they may have stored on their phone?
Answer: A lot of personal information can be stored on smartphones, such as photos, videos and email and Facebook logins. Some people also store bank details, usernames and passwords. Using a password, or PIN, to secure your device is a great way of keeping all of this information safe.
Young people can find it helpful to have a PIN to lock their smartphone to prevent friends logging into their social networking sites and changing their page, often called “fraping”.
Question: How can my child share their location on their smartphone? What do I need to know to help them stay safe?
Answer: Location services allow applications such as maps and social networks to pinpoint your location. While it might be helpful to know where you are on a map to navigate your way home, it is important to be careful when sharing such information with other people. For example, Facebook allows users to update their status with their location. While this is turned off for younger users, it is worth noting that many young people do not register with the correct age and so need to choose not to disclose their location.
Speak to older children about the potential consequences of sharing their location and help them to think very carefully about what they share. With younger children you could have a family agreement about not sharing location at all, or perhaps you could use parental control tools to prevent them sharing their location.
Question: How can I help my child understand the implications of passing on information that may be hurtful or illegal?
Answer: Smartphones make it easy to quickly pass on information and react spontaneously. This can be great fun for your child as they chat with their friends using instant messaging, but it can also pose problems. Teachers have found that photos and messages can spread across a school rapidly; all it takes is for one person to forward a photo or message to their friends, and for these people to then pass on to their friends and so on, for something to spread round an entire school. If this photo or message contains something hurtful or private, this can be deeply distressing for the young person involved. It is worth talking to your child about the responsibility they have to not pass on information that could be hurtful. As was seen in the case of the 2011 riots in the UK, sending messages that incite a crime can place young people in a position where they face legal punishment.
Question: How can I help my child to use their smartphone camera in a responsible way?
Answer: Young people enjoy taking photos and videos of their friends and the things they get up to. Smartphones have in-built cameras, so it is important for young people to use this function positively and sensibly. You should encourage your children to ask the permission of friends before posting their pictures on a social networking site. Remind them that taking photos or videos which upset others is a form of bullying.
Remind your child that if they send an image to someone it can be shared online; if they wouldn’t want a parent, grandparent or teacher seeing the image, they shouldn’t be sending it. Some young people send inappropriate photographs of themselves (which is often called sexting) and there have been cases where these photos have been posted online or sent around a school.
If you do not feel that the camera function is appropriate for your child it is possible to block its use on some devices.
Question: What should I do if I think my child is spending too much time on their smartphone?
Answer: Young people can often feel they need to be regularly communicating to keep up with their friendships – and with friends, games, music and films at their fingertips 24 hours a day it is easy to see how young people can become ‘hooked’ on their devices.
It is useful to have a family agreement about how your child uses their smartphone, for example, agreeing rules about devices being switched off at night, or perhaps limiting the hours allowed on it as you might do for television. Remember that you need to model good behaviour, and if you decide that phones must be off at mealtimes, the same rules also need to apply to you! It is helpful for young people to understand that they are in control of when they reply to friends and that time away from their phone is okay.