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kids using cell phones
Parenting

4 Important Cell Phone Safety Tips for Kids

Getting their first cell phone is now a rite of passage for most kids. Having a phone comes with a lot of responsibility, and parents who lay the groundwork for safety and boundaries give their kids the necessary tools to navigate the Internet’s muddy waters.

Although they include helpful tools like calculators, cameras, and GPS directions, cell phones can also expose your children to bullying, predators, online scams, and more.

Take the time to talk to your children about the helpful and harmful aspects of cell phone usage—it can help them make better decisions in the future. If you’re thinking about getting your child a phone, consider these safety tips.

  1. Set ground rules

Although it’s best to set boundaries before you give your child a phone, it’s never too late to introduce ground rules and discuss safety precautions. A written family contract for cell phone use is a way to implement solid and unbreakable rules for kids, and it also helps parents consider how cell phones affect family life and behavior outside the home.

Common restrictions include:

  • Specific times the phone can be used.
  • No phones at the dinner table.
  • A central area to store everyone’s phone at night.
  • Limits on what apps your child can access.
  • Whom your child can text.
  • Who is responsible if the phone is lost or broken.
  • Specific safety precautions, like never disclosing school names, addresses, or any personal information online.
  • Data limits.

Start by placing limits, and widen your child’s span of access as they show responsibility.

  1. Stay on top of data usage

Unlimited data plans are common today, but some family plans include limited data. Nip overages in the bud by educating your children about data usage. After all, you don’t want them to overrun your monthly cell phone bill with non-stop streaming.

If your child has an Android phone, you can set data limits directly on their phone. To do this:

  • Go to Settings > Network & Internet > Data Usage.
  • Select “Data warning & limit.”
  • Select “Data limit” and enter the amount of data your child can use.

Your child’s mobile data will automatically shut off when that limit is hit.

For Apple phones, apps like My Data Manager let you customize alarms when your child uses data over the amount you set.

It’s also smart to train your kids to use WiFi whenever possible to cut down on data usage.

  1. Talk about how to react to inappropriate content

Regardless of your child’s age, a phone offers access to the Internet that can be hard to restrict. Accidental searches can lead to content and pictures you’d rather your child not see. Expect this will happen, rather than hope it doesn’t.

As your child gets older, conversations with friends online can venture into areas they may not be emotionally ready to handle. An age-appropriate discussion with your child can include topics such as:

  • Bullying
  • Pornography
  • Seemingly friendly or helpful strangers befriending them
  • Alerting an adult if a friend is making comments about depression or suicide
  • Invitations to parties or events
  • Requests for photos
  • How to identify online scams
  • How to handle differing viewpoints
  1. Set Parental Controls

Setting up parental controls to monitor your child’s activity is wise. Controls can include restrictions on web search results, preventing explicit content, downloading certain apps or games, and setting limits on when your child can access the data on their phone.

How many controls you set will depend on your child’s age and maturity level. It’s best to place more restrictions in the beginning and loosen them as your child proves they are mature and responsible enough to have a cell phone. Several parental monitoring apps are available to help you track your child’s cell phone activity, and your mobile carrier may offer parental controls, as well.

parental controls

Staying in the know about popular social media sites and apps is also important. Kids and teens are smart — don’t expect their conversations with friends to occur over text, where you can easily review them. Many kids prefer direct messaging options offered through social media sites like Snapchat and Instagram that disappear after the recipient reads their message.

Even if your child has had their cell phone for years, it’s never too late to cover these topics. Cell phones open a world of information, right at your child’s fingertips. Equipping children with boundaries, guidance, and open conversation will better prepare them as they navigate through their online activities.

Lori Cunningham is a family tech advocate and contributing writer for Xfinity Mobile. Known for her ravenous curiosity, she started the WellConnectedMom.com to share her passion for technology with others. 

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