Instead of choosing an app to give an overview of, I thought a discussion for parents and the ways children use smartphones might be equally helpful especially since news and statistics are forever floating around about which phones are the best, which apps are most popular, who’s sexting whom and cybersecurity is the new frontier.
Starting With The Basics:
Recently, one of the nation’s leading experts on American Internet use, Pew Research Center, published a study discussing the importance of smartphones and teen use. According to the Center’s findings for Teens & Technology 2013, smartphone adoption by teens is growing and how teens are accessing the Internet is as well.
“The nature of teens’ internet use has transformed dramatically — from stationary connections tied to shared desktops in the home to always-on connections that move with them throughout the day,” said Mary Madden, Senior Researcher for the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and co-author of the report. “In many ways, teens represent the leading edge of mobile connectivity, and the patterns of their technology use often signal future changes in the adult population.”
Why They Stated it?
Of the individuals polled, Pew found that:
- 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of them own smartphones. That translates into 37% of all teens who have smartphones, up from just 23% in 2011.
- 23% of teens have a tablet computer, a level comparable to the general adult population.
- 95% of teens use the Internet.
- 93% of teens have a computer or have access to one at home. Seven in ten (71%) teens with home computer access say the laptop or desktop they use most often is one they share with other family members.
What it Means for Parents.
Although I only chose to include stats from this study, it isn’t the only organization putting out research and I am certain most of us have seen many a teen walking around engrossed with some type of digital happenstance in their hands. Don’t believe me, attend a highschool event and count the teens on their phones! But, what does this mean for parents? If our teens are accessing so many things from their phones, are you aware of what those access points are?
What Can a Smartphone do?
Your typical smartphone has an ocean of possibilities good and potentially bad for teens. Most have very powerful cameras and video capabilities, they have access to the Internet depending on the plan a parent chooses and if they have Internet access, then they have access to a multitude of information including free apps in the store for the device. Whether just messaging or Internet and messaging, the possibilities are endless for what they can access and where they can share. Here’s a quick snapshot of what happens on the Internet in just 60 seconds. As the amount of activity has increased over that past 10 years, I think it’s safe to say that the availability of technology only increases internet interactivity and as the smartphone trends continue to rise, the amount of activity shown below will skyrocket.
Like Many Others, Here’s What My Kids Have:
I provide iPhones which of course have image, video and texting capability. I supply them with huge data plans and unlimited text and calling because its simply cheaper than paying for overages, as I have written before, one son is capable of sending more than 5,000 texts a month. But, with their phones they each have access to the app store where the info, capabilities, and possibilities can’t ever be measured adequately.
My kids can take images and videos and share them online or through messaging.
They can access anywhere on the internet AND they can access the Apple iTunes store where they can download ANY free app. Depending on the requirements of that application, they can share freely any content they wish, text, images or videos. If they have funds on an iTunes account, they can purchase apps as well. Once they have downloaded an app, what they do within that app can often go undetected. Although I spot check phones, which means at any date or time I can pick up their phone and check what they have messaged or have received, yet who really knows where or what they’ve been sharing and I am not really certain I have the kind of time it will take to break down their phone to guarantee their ultimate safety.
It’s like a maze once they have a full access to a smartphone. Anything can be shared and in multiple ways. While some apps require additional chunks of a data plan, are parents aware of exactly why their child has used so much data? My theory is no.
Apps are different and constantly changing meaning in order to keep abreast to all smartphone digital capabilities, a parent would have to be simultaneously engaged with their child’s phones and interactions which is too time consuming! While many apps and locations a child visits from their smartphone can be harmful, there are too many positives to a child having instant information. By information I mean, my sons have a scientific calculator built into their phones with the iPhones. With that calculator and a great educational YouTube video, my kids can be self-sufficient when solving the hardest quadratic equations. They learn and use technology the way their world has taught them, instantly and independently. Of course there are individuals out there that might debate my sense of pride for their independence, I’m not a mathematical individual and tutors are hard to find at 9 pm when homework happens.
As a parent, I probably won’t turn off Internet access, and I won’t make them wait for parental approval for every app download. I do spot check and I do question how apps are being used and I even open up the apps on their phones to see what the app is about.
What’s on Their Phone:
- Know the type of phone you are giving your child. Learn what built in safety options there are. For the iPhone 4, you can choose to turn of GPS locators, which apps can use the phones contacts, if the phone can access in-app purchases and content ratings. You can find these settings under Settings, Privacy or Restrictions.
- Know what access you are giving them with the plan you choose. (ie. Full Internet access or just messaging).
- Know the apps your child has access to and read the app reviews for them.
- Know the age requirements for each app.
- Re-visit your child’s phone often. They may have changed certain permissions specifically to access other apps.
Where Are The Access Points?
Every app is different and this means that you need to know what type of access your children have to content, strangers or what sharing abilities they have. App reviews by other users often provide a great deal of information!
- Pay attention to data usage. Some apps require more data, such as YouTube and a jump in data could indicate a new found interest. For instance, If your child’s data is double what it was last month, do some research to find out what they are accessing.
- Do a search online if you aren’t certain about the app they are using. There are a lot of informational stories and blogs about the hottest apps out there.
- Understand what safety settings are out there. ImageVision has the EyeGuardian for Mobile app now that will do a lot of the heavy lifting for a parent. While it doesn’t prevent content from reaching your child, it will monitor and alert a parent when harmful content has been accessed.
- Don’t be afraid to put safety settings in place. Children are pretty open to conversations about their devices. They want to be able to access all that they can so help them to do it safely.
- Have the digital talk. Let your child know that while sharing is common, fun and seemingly normal to them, there are predatory individuals looking for ways to access them and their content, or even identities! Also, a single inappropriate image could follow them for life!
- Don’t be afraid to check your child’s phone. As minors, they are entrusted to you for guidance, access, and education. While your son may not have asked for a sext, it doesn’t mean he isn’t liable for possessing child pornographic material.
- Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Often when talking with parents, I realize many parents don’t check a child’s phone because they aren’t sure what the phone or their child is capable of. Dive in, research and ask questions. The Internet is a very big, very busy highway. Hold their hand and teach them how to safely cross!
- Find alternatives! If your child is in to watching streaming videos and the app they are doing it through doesn’t have the safety precautions against inappropriate content, do your research and find a site that does.
- View your child’s smartphone as a doorway. While opening it, don’t let them visit their new digital world alone. If they know how to properly use their devices and what some consequences of sharing too much might be, they can make better decisions on their own.
- Continually seek safety information and updates for the phone and apps your child has. Viruses, malware and predators look for new ways to access information and app makers look for new ways to protect their subscribers!
I am hope this blog will help some parents to become better acquainted with their child’s smartphone and access points. As our technology advances and our accessibility to the advancements increases it may not always be easy to keep up with a device’s capabilities, yet it will always be necessary!
Pick up Your Child’s Phone This Next Weekend and Start With an App Count!
I start with the apps because in my opinion, these are more of a threat for my sons. Once you do put settings in place on the phone, then you will need to ask these questions too:
1. How many apps do you have on your phone?
1. What are these apps?
2. Who can you share with? Just friends? Strangers?
3. What can you share? Just texts? Images? Videos?
4. What is the last thing you shared through these apps? Why?
5. Are you sharing personal information?
Until next blog, be cybersafe! If your child has an Android-based smartphone, check out EyeGuardian for Mobile, it’s the newest parental smartphone-monitoring app able to show you images, texts and videos your child has shared and much more.
EyeGuardian teammate, Stephy Ochoa