Mobile phones and tablets will be among the popular back to school items purchased this month, and parents are faced with making decisions about how their children interact with them. As parents begin to shop for back to school items, many will ask themselves:
· How old is old enough for my child to have a cell phone or tablet?
· When and why is it appropriate to give mobile phones to kids?
· How can I protect their privacy and keep them safe with anywhere access to the internet?
· Will they use a device responsibly, and can I limit their use, purchases and what they access?
· What about the dangers of texting while driving?
· Will my wireless bill sky rocket?
Thankfully, there are safety tools and information available from wireless service providers, and features and apps on the devices themselves that can help parents manage the mobile device experience, including:
· Smart Limits for Wireless is a service that allows parents to choose a monthly dollar limit for apps, games and content; set time restrictions so that texting, web browsing & calling may only be done at specified times of day; and set monthly limits for the # of text messages or amount of web browsing/data used per month. $4.99/month per line on AT&T. The other three national carriers offer similar services. Check your carriers’ website for more information
· Prevent Purchases. The four national carriers offer services that allow parents to block purchases. For example, Purchase Blockeris a free tool from AT&T that helps families manage mobile bills by blocking premium content purchases like games and apps that are direct-billed to individuals’ accounts.
· Mobile Sharing and Family Plans are available from virtually all wireless carriers and allow you to share voice minutes, data use and more among multiple phones for mom, dad and the kids. For example, AT&T FamilyTalk plans let you share your voice minutes with up to five lines on the plan, with the option of adding a shared unlimited messaging plan or an unlimited messaging plan for selected lines. With a FamilyTalk plan, you purchase required data plans for each smartphone separately. You can change your plan anytime, without extending your contract.
· DriveMode is a free app for AT&T Android and Blackberry users designed to curb the urge to text while driving. It sends a customizable auto-reply message to incoming texts, letting friends and family know you’re behind the wheel and that you will reply when it’s safe. Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile make similar apps, although they are not all free.
· AT&T FamilyMap helps parents keep up with family members by allowing them to locate their mobile device on a map. Locate up to 2 lines for $9.99/month; locate up to 5 lines for $14.99/month
· Glympse is a groundbreaking new way to share your location with anyone for a specified period of time. If your kids are running late for dinner or practice ended early, they can send you a Glympse and let you know that they are on their way home. Glympse is available on iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows smartphones.
· MamaBear – Available on iPhone and Android phones, this app is great for keeping your child safe on all mediums. While it too has location services, MamaBear also has a feature that watches over your child’s Facebook feed and alerts you of any signs of bullying or harsh language.
· Sygic Family – Available on iPhone and Android phones, keeps your family safe by allowing you to check where they are, however you can even check the battery levels of their smart phones. So when one of your kids is at a concert and not texting you back, you can see their phone died and text their friend instead of alerting the state police and U.S. SWAT teams.
· MobileKids – For all you parents who want to make sure your parents get their much needed eight hours of sleep, this higher level monitoring tool alerts you when your kids use their mobile phones in the middle of the night. It also lets you know when they add a new contact or download a new app. MobileKids can be used on all handsets. If you have an iPhone or Android phone, simply download the app from you app store. If you use a Blackberry, Windows or another phone, access the app through your browser
· Privacy and your child with cell phone use. The Effects of Online Actions
· Responsible texting. Teaching Responsible Text Messaging.
· Texting and driving should be as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving. If your teen is driving and has a phone, this talk is too important to avoid. More information and a pledge to never text and drive is available here: ItCanWait.com
· Find more Family Safety Tips here