Cell Phone Safety Tips
As of the end of 2005, there were 207.9 million wireless subscribers in the United States. Every day, more than 224,000 emergency calls to 9-1-1 are made using wireless phones.
—CTIA–The Wireless Association, “Wireless Quick Facts,” April 2006
- Cell phones can make communication within families a lot easier, especially for older children who may need rides to and from extracurricular activities or friends’ houses.
- Cell phones can be extremely helpful in emergencies. Make sure your children keep their cell phone batteries charged, and make sure they know how to use their phones to dial 9-1-1.
- The features available for cell phones and other hand-held devices are rapidly becoming more and more sophisticated. Many cell phones now provide access to the Internet, allow short text messages to be sent without a sound, and even take pictures that can be sent electronically from the phone.
- It is very easy to rack up enormous charges on cell phones by using too many minutes or by accessing certain features (such as text messaging and the Internet).
- The mobility of cell phones makes them much more difficult to monitor. Cell phones can be used at the mall, in friends’ homes, or other places where there are no adults to monitor the interaction.
- Cell phones’ advanced features can be used to bully peers. For example, a child can use a camera phone to take an embarrassing photo of a peer then send the photo to others or upload it to the Internet. Children have an overabundance of ways to communicate with their peers, which means that bullies have multiple ways to harass their victims.
What you can do
Learn how to use the phone with your child. Make sure your child knows how to dial emergency numbers, how to keep the phone charged, and what certain actions (such as text messaging or accessing the Internet) might cost. This is also a great time to talk to your child about any cell phone features you don’t want him or her to use.
Monitor your child’s cell phone bill. The bill should give you an itemized record of any calls made or received. If the list contains unfamiliar numbers that appear regularly, ask your child whom the numbers belong to. You should also show the bill to your child and point out the places where he or she is using extra minutes or incurring additional fees.
Establish a Media Use Contract with each child in your family. It is important that you have a conversation with each child to set rules and limits that are appropriate for him or her. In your conversation, be explicit about how you intend to monitor your child’s cell phone use and what the consequences will be if the contract is broken. Once the contracts have been signed, post them in a prominent place in your home as a reminder.