With the landscape changing, it’s crucial for parents to take the necessary steps to monitor their kid’s cell phone use to ensure their safety.
In this article:
- Cyberbullies Lurk Everywhere
- Anonymity Makes it Easy for Online Predators
- Prevent Them from Doing Unsafe Viral Challenges
- Your Kid’s Phone is a Trove of Personal Information
- Preserve Their Online Reputation
- To Limit Your Kid’s Phone Time
- Encourage Offline Social Interaction
Here’s Why Parents Should Track Their Kid’s Cell Phone Use
1. Cyberbullies Lurk Everywhere
For kids nowadays, bullies have expanded their turf to cyberspace. Watching your kid’s cell phone activity can alert you if they’re being bullied, or even if they’re the bully themselves.
Nonprofit organization DoSomething, which aims to empower kids to create a positive change, has reported that as much as 43% of kids have experienced cyberbullying, and 1 out of 4 of those kids have been bullied more than once. Kids who have experienced cyberbullying are also 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide.
Here are some signs your kid could be suffering from cyberbullying:
- Keeping to themselves more often
- Isolating themselves from friends and family
- Not using their cell phones as often as they usually do
- Drastic changes like mood swings and lower grades
2. Anonymity Makes it Easy for Online Predators
According to Darkness to Light, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims of sexual abuse, about one in 10 children would be a victim of child sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. As much as 20% of these kids have been abused even before they turn eight.
Because of how easy it is to be anonymous on the Internet, predators can easily look for kids to strike a friendship with, intending to take advantage of their trusting nature. They can craft their identity in such a way that kids would let their guard down and immediately trust them.
Once the kid has gotten their trust, they can then groom the kid and set them up for ongoing abuse. For a lot of parents, this alone is perhaps a big reason why they would want to track their kid’s cell phone activity.
Signs that would signal that a sexual predator could be grooming your kid include:
- Messages that ask if you (the parents or guardians) are around, or if you’re monitoring your kid’s cell phone
- Messages that aim to make your kid feel “special”
- Strong compliments, especially about your kid’s appearance
- Asking to keep secrets
- Conversations about sexual activity
- Acting out in ways inappropriate for their age
If you think your child is too young to gauge who they’re talking to on the phone, you can replace their phone with a kid’s watch phone, which is probably the best phone for kids who are younger. These types of phones allow parents to restrict who can call your kids to only the contacts you pre-approve.
3. Prevent Them from Doing Unsafe Viral Challenges
A lot of kids participate in various viral challenges that range from silly (like the Whisper Challenge) to downright dangerous (Tide Pod Challenge, anyone?). Kids take part in them for the following reasons:
- Peer Pressure: If their friends do it, they want to do it too.
- Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): They get anxiety from thinking their peers are having fun experiences without them.
- Celebrity Endorsements: If they see a celebrity they admire do the challenge, they’re more likely to do it too.
If you track their phone use, you’d be able to see if they’re browsing videos and photos of people doing these challenges. This can open a conversation between the two of you on how unsafe these challenges are and teach them the right judgment calls.
4. Your Kid’s Phone is a Trove of Personal Information
Unfortunately, not everyone is trustworthy on the Internet. Some of these people intentionally scope out social media profiles to impersonate someone else for financial gain.
Kids tend to be very trusting of the people they interact with and the personal information they give out. This places them (and you as parents) at high risk for identity theft.
The right monitoring measures enable you to check out your kid’s social profile and remove information you wouldn’t want other people to know about them. Some of the things your kids shouldn’t share online include:
- Personal identification
- Home addresses
- Medical history
- Days they’re going on vacation
- Incriminating photos and videos
5. Preserve Their Online Reputation
Since their judgment skills aren’t fully developed yet, kids may not always know if what they share could be used against them. Their personal information would be easy to find and archive, even if they end up deleting the original post.
Any incriminating information could be used against them. In fact, college admission officers can rescind your kid’s acceptance even if they already qualified for a slot.
If you can monitor what your kid posts through their cell phones, then you’d be able to step on the brakes and stop them from posting something they’d regret in the long run.
6. To Limit Your Kid’s Phone Time
Let’s face it: kids are spending more and more time in front of a screen than anywhere else. Some effects of excessive screen time include:
- Delays in developmental milestones
- Lower academic performance
- Poorer sleep quality
- Poorer relationship quality and social skills
In a study, Weiwei Chen and Jessica Adler of Florida International University assessed the amount of screen time kids aged 0 to 2 years old from 1997 to 2014. During their assessment, they discovered that while in 1997, kids 0 to 2 years old spent 1.32 hours in front of a screen each day, that value rose to 3.05 hours in 2014.
Too much screen time, especially at very young ages, is detrimental to kids’ growth and development. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids should limit phone time to the following:
- No screen time for kids 2 years and below outside of video chatting.
- 1 hour a day for children ages 2 to 5 years
- No specific limits for kids 6 and older, but parents should ensure that screen time doesn’t affect things like sleep, school, and other essential activities
7. Encourage Offline Social Interaction
How people talk to on the Internet isn’t always the same way people talk to each other face-to-face. The anonymity the Internet provides means they’ll be exposed to people talking more aggressively than they would when talking about the same thing offline.
If your kid isn’t exposed to social norms outside the Internet, they’d have a harder time adjusting their communication style to fit face-to-face interaction.
Learn how much screen time is too much in this video from NPR:
These days, it’s understandable that parents provide a phone for kids since mobile connectivity is getting increasingly necessary. However, this connectivity also puts kids at risk, which is why it’s essential for parents to monitor phone use.
By keeping tabs on what kids do and browse, you can ensure they’re keeping safe even in the vast world of cyberspace and mobile connectivity.
Do you track your kid’s cell phone activity regularly? Let us know in the comments section below.
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