Parent’s Guide to Online Security: Introducing Smartphones

Parent’s Guide to Online Security: Introducing Smartphones

Parents and carers play a key role in supporting children to learn about how to stay safe online, and they are one of the first people children turn to if things go wrong.

We know it can be difficult to stay on top of the wide range of sites and devices that young people use, so we hope that the following advice helps.

Four steps:

  • Have ongoing conversations with your children about staying safe online
  • Use safety tools on social networks and other online services, eg. Facebook privacy settings
  • Decide if you want to use parental controls on your home internet
  • Understand devices and the parental control tools they offer in our Parents’ Guide to Technology

Parents’ Guide to Technology

In the parents’ sessions we run in schools, we get a lot of questions about particular devices that children are using or asking for. This guide has been created to answer these questions and introduce some of the most popular devices, highlighting the safety tools available and empowering parents with the knowledge they need to support their children to use these technologies safely and responsibly. 

Smartphones Introduction

Smartphones are mobile phones with internet access.                                                  They are capable of a range of additional functions, including social networking, listening to music, playing games, browsing the internet, checking emails, taking photos and videos and watching TV – along with the usual texting and calling!

From e-safety point of view this additional functions set make smartphones more dangerous than simple mobile phones.

You can personalise your phone by downloading ‘apps’ which carry out fun and useful functions, from checking train times to caring for a virtual pet! The most popular types of apps among young people are for games, social networking and music.

Smartphones are incredibly popular with young people – modern research has shown that 59% of young people aged 12-15 have a smartphone, other 41% probably are probably begging for one or at least secretly dreaming to get it for their next birthday. Popular brands include , iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows OS phones from many other vendors.

Internet safety advice is directly applicable to smartphones because risks of “4Cs E-Safety Risks” (Content, Contact, Conduct and Commercialism) also apply:

Content Risks: age-inappropriate material can be available to children.

As smartphones have internet access, the risks that young people face online also apply to smartphones. There are also apps which contain stuff that may be inappropriate for young people, for example of a sexual or violent nature. As these devices can be used for listening to music, playing games and watching TV, films and videos, you should think about whether all of this content is suitable for your child.

Contact Risks: potential contact from someone who may wish to bully or abuse them.

Smartphones provide a wide range of communication channels – calling, texting, instant messaging, social networking, video calling, chatting to other players in games and emailing to name a few. This is great for young people, who love to socialise, but these channels can also allow unwanted and hurtful contact. Smartphones can be used by bullies, and young people can make themselves vulnerable to contact by those with a sexual interest in children, particularly if they share their personal information.

Conduct Risks: children may be at risk because of their own and others’ behavior.

Young people may get into difficulty if they don’t think about the consequences of the information they share, which may damage their online reputation or leave them open to contact from someone who may want to bully or abuse them. Equally, passing on gossip, photos or information among friends can be a form of bullying, so children need to think before they post or send anything.

Commercialism Risks: young people can be unaware of hidden costs and advertising.

There have been cases where children and young people have got into difficulty by inadvertently running up bills when buying apps and making in-app purchases. In addition, online and in-app advertising have increased massively over the last few years, with mobile advertising more than doubling during the year. However, many young people are unaware of targeted advertising, especially if it comes in the form of a game app.

How to stay safe

Smartphones provide a variety of interesting activities and ways for young people to engage with their friends and families. However, it is important to be aware of what these devices can do and how you can talk with your child to help them to use this technology in safe and positive way.

Three steps for parents:

  1. When you sign up to a mobile contract, make sure that you and your child understand the contract’s internet data allowance – accessing the internet uses internet data and if you go over your allowance it may cost you.
  2. Understand the capabilities of smartphones and how you as a parent can support your child to be smart and safe in their smartphone use. To help with this, read the our FAQs and see our iPhone or BlackBerry tips. If you are buying a smartphone, why not print our Shopper’s Checklist and ask these questions in the shop?
  3. Talk with your child about safe and responsible smartphone use and agree a set of family rules. Perhaps you could agree rules with your child about not meeting up with people they have only met online, how much they are allowed to spend on apps, what websites it’s okay and not okay to visit, and whether their phone should be switched off at night. Remember that smartphones connect to the internet, so the same advice and rules for keeping safe online apply.

Stay tuned as we continue our guide next week with FAQs: Your questions answered, including questions on internet access capabilities of modern smartphones, which apps are appropriate for your child, how your child can try to protect their personal information online and how you can ensure your child spends enough time in the real world as well.

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