A decade ago, it was relatively easy for parents to restrict their children’s Internet usage. When most homes had but a single computer, peace of mind could be achieved with just a password or a locked door. However, with the mobile revolution that has swept America over the past few years, it’s become more of a challenge to shield kids from digital dangers.
The advent of “smart phones” has changed this dynamic entirely, allowing children to access not only the Internet, but also a host of “apps”. Many are harmless or even helpful, but there will always be some that present inappropriate content or initiate dangerous contact.
Below are a few tips for maintaining control of children’s iPhone (and even iPod) usage, while still allowing them to reap the social and educational benefits of these convenient devices:
1. Talk to your children: The simplest strategy is often the most effective. Have a conversation about what the product can do, how it works, and how your child plans to use it. Explain the risks, set clear boundaries, and let your child know what the consequences will be if he crosses them.
2. Utilize built-in parental controls: Both the iPhone and the iPod Touch come equipped with a parental control function (go to “Settings” ‚Äì “General” ‚Äì “Restrictions”). By setting a 4-digit passcode, you can enable and disable access to the camera, the app store, the iTunes store, YouTube, and the Internet (there are also third-party apps available to allow restricted web access).
3. Learn to read the monthly bill: Cell phone bills can be daunting, filled with hundreds of records and seemingly unintelligible jargon. Online statements can be especially difficult to navigate, making it difficult to identify specific usage and charges. Learning to interpret the bill is key to finding out how your child is using the device. There are online manuals available, or you can contact your service provider for assistance.
4. Customize your phone plan: Service providers offer a variety of plans regarding web usage and text message limitations, often referred to as “data plans” or “data packages”. Determine the amount of usage you consider appropriate for your child and choose a plan accordingly.
5. Be aware: Even with the plethora of e-restrictions available, a parent’s watchful eyes (and ears) are always the best line of defense. Children are more tech-savvy than ever, and are utilizing that knowledge to their advantage. For example, “mosquito” ringtones have become increasingly popular in schools ‚ notifying kids of text messages at audio frequencies that are undetectable to most humans over the age of 18. Simply by knowing what’s out there, you can reduce the risk of your child abusing the privilege of having a cell phone or mobile device.
By being concerned and alert, you’ve taken the first steps toward ensuring your child’s safety and responsibility. Remember that technology isn’t the enemy: there are plenty of ways to use it to your advantage. Although e-restrictions are powerful tools, a little understanding between parent and child goes a long way.