With the birth of the smartphone, parents’ ability to monitor teens’ technology use has become somewhat limited. Music, games, photos, social networking, and thousands of other mobile applications are all available at the press of a button or swipe of a touch screen for any teen with a cell phone equipped with the appropriate technology. Here are some ways to keep tabs on what your kids are getting up to with their phones:
- Create an app budget with your child. Although many apps are available for free, some cost anywhere from 99 cents to upwards of $10 and the fee is charged directly to the cell phone bill. Also, be clear about who pays.
- Talk about when to buy music online straight from a cell phone and when to wait. It’s now easier to make an impulse buy because cell phones and iTunes have made it so easy to do so.
- Find out if your child’s cell phone has parental controls. Many of the newest-generation ones do (or you can purchase parental control apps and software), which makes it easier for you to have a say in how your child uses it. The iTunes parental controls also allow you to restrict explicit content from showing up in the iTunes Store and can be set for music, movies, and apps.
- Android applications currently have content ratings that are submitted by the app developer , including All, Preteen, Teen, and Mature ratings and iTunes Store app ratings go by age, including 4+, 9+, 12+, and 17+ and are approved by Apple . Be clear with your child about what app ratings are acceptable and what are off limits.
- Ask about any songs that have “parental advisory” labels on them. Because it’s so easy for kids to download music, many don’t realize that some have explicit content. Learn more about the parental advisory labels
- Think carefully before you allow a cell phone that has internet access or can play movies. If the phone can take photos or videos, be clear of what’s acceptable to film—and what’s not. Read more about mobile internet access
- Just like any online social environment, kids playing online games and using social networking sites through their phones are at risk of being targeted by internet predators. Talk to your kids about internet safety. Read more about online safety
Mobile apps have changed the way that kids use technology. And the continuing convergence of digital media means that your child’s options for mobile apps will continue to increase—as will the ways in which she can interact with people. Be sure to talk to your child regularly about her cell phone habits and monitor how your kids are using their phones.
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• LIMIT game playing time.
• CHECK the age game ratings and descriptors on the box.
• DO NOT PUT video game consoles or computers in children's bedrooms.
• LOOK for games that involve multiple players to encourage group play.
• PLAY AND ENJOY a game with your child; check in as your child moves into deeper levels in the game.
*More tips like these are available in the Through U family education kit from MediaWise, a product of the National Institute on Media and the Family.