Safety Tips for Children Who Use Wireless Devices

Written by Jennifer James | Sponsored by bNetS@vvy.org

Traveling often affords me the opportunity to notice the digital habits of people from coast to coast. Invariably, one trend that remains consistent across the country is the ubiquitous and constant use of wireless devices. Everyone has one these days, including me. In fact, I have several. And, children from small kids to teens have their own wireless devices as well.

When I am waiting in airports I see kids tinkering with everything from iPod Touches and mobile gaming consoles to cell phones and laptops. Oftentimes I wonder if their parents know how potentially dangerous these mobile devices are. Wi-Fi capability on one of these devices can connect your child to the Internet with a simple push of a button and a hot spot. Devices change all of the time and it is important to understand how they work. That’s why in honor of Internet Safety Month, we will be featuring tips each week to help you keep your children safe on the Net.

WIRELESS DEVICES

Before you buy your child a wireless device it is imperative to figure out how it works. This can be a daunting task especially as a busy parent. Who has time to read an instruction manual with tiny print and figure out how a wireless device works on top of that? Sit down with your child and let them explain to you how the device works and how they will be using it. Or, if all else fails, before buying a wireless device grill the salesperson about how it works. Ask questions such as:

1) Does the device have Wi-Fi capability?
2) Can my child download images and videos?
3) Can my child text from this device?
4) Can my child send and receive email from this device?
5) Does the device have filtering software?

Don’t feel bad about asking these questions and even encourage them to dumb down the answers for you. There is absolutely no shame in learning about these devices and it beats getting surprised by how your child uses them. While getting the run-down on your child’s wireless device may seems over your head especially as technology advances, it is crucial that you know and learn how it works. Children are extremely tech-savvy and if they find an opening to connect with their friends or others on the Net, they will gladly take that option. It is incumbent upon you as a concerned parent to make sure your child uses their wireless device sensibly. This is especially true as location apps grow in popularity. It may seem cool to your child to mark their location for the world to see, but the dangers are escalated when they do this. Make sure to school them on the potential threats and dangers location apps pose in addition to any other wireless activity.

Also be sure to monitor your wireless bill. Your wireless company keeps a tally of daily usage. This is a useful way to keep tabs on how your child uses their wireless device. And more importantly you will not be surprised at the end of the month with an exorbitant wireless bill. Also, if your child’s wireless device can connect to the Web via Wi-Fi figure out a way to disconnect or disable it, especially if you are concerned by their ability to surf the Net.

In all, make sure to have heart-to-heart conversations with your child about their wireless devices and your expectations on how you would like them to use them. While wireless devices are fun toys to play with their potential for danger grows each year as our world becomes more connected. Talk with your children about wireless device safety, learn about the devices’ wireless capabilities, and always monitor your children’s usage to prevent bill surprises.

For more information on Internet safety and wireless devices, please visit www.bNetS@vvy.org.

How do you monitor your child's use of wireless devices?

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Comment by Mom on the Run on June 28, 2010 at 12:42am
My tip? Keep the lines of communication open at all times. Talk to kids about wireless safety. We don't allow phones at the dinner table. We do take the phone away if there are problems at school.
Comment by Healthy Mom on June 26, 2010 at 1:16pm
I wrote a blog entry at http://bit.ly/dtKTxe with a link back to this discussion.
Comment by Louise on June 25, 2010 at 11:08pm
You can try to keep them away from technology but it is a useless effort. The best thing to do is communicate regularly with them.
Comment by nicole on June 25, 2010 at 10:54pm
Even if you block the internet on your child's phone via program/parental control, they can use the memory card/jump drive and open up the internet on it. They can do this on their HOME computers as well. Frequently the friends version of the internet will have ZERO restrictions!

I actually posted about this and other tech warnings (ever thought about covering up your built in camera on your laptop? you should when not using it!! )- you can read them here:
http://blesstheirheartsmom.blogspot.com/2010/04/parental-technology...
Comment by forgetfulone on June 25, 2010 at 2:31pm
What I am most concerned with at this point is sexting. Not that I think my kids would start it, but that someone might forward to them something inappropriate. The most important thing I think a parent can do is TALK to their children about what dangers there are and the consequences. It also doesn't hurt to take a look at their texts and photos every so often. If they know you will do that, they will come to you if they receive something inappropriate so that the parent just doesn't find it on a random peek at their phone.
Comment by Rustin on June 25, 2010 at 11:39am
Remember, that even your kids DS can surf the internet. The best solution by far is to install DNS filtering at your ROUTER level. It's simple to do and means anyone who connects to your wireless internet will be protected (it's impossible to install filtering on a DS). I can write a post about this if interested.
Comment by Mimi on June 25, 2010 at 8:45am
My 11 yr old has wanted a cell phone for 2 yrs now. Not going to happen. There's no reason to have a cell phone at this age other than to say he has one. My older teenage girls shared a cell phone for about 3 yrs and only used it when they were going to a sporting event out of town or something where they might need it for an emergency. A personal cell phone at this age is so unnecessary.

As for a laptop? They won't be getting those until they either graduate from high school or take college courses in high school like my daughters. Again, not necessary. What is the point? I just don't get it. To me, all it does is separate us even more from our kids. None of my kids will have a tv in their bedrooms. There's a tv and computer for family use and if they felt they needed privacy for either of those items, I would absolutely question why.

My son just got a Nintendo DS, but the only use is for E rated games and nothing else! That's how it's been for the PS2 and that's how it will stay. Hey, I'm the mom and it's my perogative, right? =) If they don't like the rules, they don't need to play them. Same goes for down the road when they do have a cell phone or any other wireless device.

So, how do I monitor my children's use of wireless devices? They don't get them. Our computer and tv are both in our living room/computer room, which is just perfect for mom to monitor!

It's good to be the mom.
Comment by Soultravelers3 on June 18, 2010 at 3:28am
Good points! There are dangers on MANY levels with kids using these things and thoroughly educating our digital natives about safety and the pros & cons is so important.

It's funny, we live a totally mobile, world traveling lifestyle, ( been traveling the world non-stop since 2006) yet we do not own ANY hand held devices. No smart phone, no ipad, no nintendo ds, no kindle, no wii, not even an ipod or a cell phone! LOL We love the advantages of connection ( our daughter takes her piano, violin and Chinese classes via skype webcams from teachers on another continent) but also see the disadvantages of an always plugged in life...especially for growing brains in kids.

We see them all here in Europe as well, but have not succumbed yet. We DO have 3 laptops, but I don't want to have hand held things because I like to be unplugged a lot and make it less easy to get online because I think it is addictive ( despite understanding the usefulness at times).

That also makes it easier to monitor what our tween is on as we want to make sure she is educated about online problems as well as the addiction factor. We've never had a TV, so like to monitor ALL screen time.

Glad that you brought up this important topic!

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