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Parent's Guide to Smartphones

Cell phones can be useful tool for kids and teens. They allow for communication no matter where your child is and can be used for entertainment and supplementing study. It’s important to supervise your child’s cell phone usage to make sure their experience remains safe and healthy.

Here are some things to consider:

Use parental control apps and software.
Many mobile service carriers and phone manufacturers have parental control apps that can help parents keep tabs on cell phone usage. These apps can set use limits based on things like time or data, block harmful sites and apps, and even track location. The settings can even be modified at a later date to increase permissions and privileges.

Get them a phone that is appropriate for their age and usage level.
If your child will only be using a phone to call you when they need to be picked up, they may not need the latest model. Assess their needs and the types of features they are likely to use, and find a phone that meets those requirements.

Limit screen time.
Healthy kids cultivate lots of hobbies. A phone should only take up a portion of their time. Keep them involved in sports, school and community activities, and encourage them to socialize in person with friends. This will help them develop healthy boundaries with technology. Watch out for red flags, such as failing school performance, lack of sleep, and inattention that may signal too much screen time.

Be knowledgeable about the apps they are using.
You may be familiar with most popular apps, but there’s a new one every minute. Carefully review the apps they are asking to download. What sorts of features do they have? What personal information does it ask for? If it is a social media app, be aware that other people can see and interact with them.

Be careful with geolocation.
Smartphones can use GPS to reveal your child’s location through online posts and photos. Some apps, such as games or GPS, require the use of location services. When not using these specific apps, remember to turn this feature off in the phone’s settings menu.

Use antivirus software for devices.
Remember that mobile phones are essentially small computers, so they can get malware and viruses. Some of these types of viruses can steal information in addition to affecting the functionality of the device. Install mobile antivirus software to keep your child’s information safe and to protect the device.

Talk to your child about cyberbullying and inappropriate content.
Parental control software is a great tool, but it may not catch everything all the time. Keep an ongoing dialogue about identifying content that makes them feel threatened or uncomfortable. Let them know they can come to you and share what they find for guidance.

Pictures give away a lot of information.
Discuss the types of pictures your kids can post to social media. Teach them to be cautious that they aren’t giving away too much information in pictures. Don’t post pictures of what they received for Christmas or pictures that may reveal details of their schedule and whereabouts.

Sexting is a risk.
“Sexting” is a term for sending sexual content or sexually explicit messages and pictures via text. Any adult engaging with a minor in this activity is committing a crime. Minors sexting other minors in the state of Florida fall underĀ Statute 847.0141. Pursuant to Florida Statute 847.0141, minors in possession of contraband MUST report instances of sexting to certain authorities in order to avoid liability.