I think we all agree that safety controls are very important. I’ll always remember my friend telling me about the time she ‘lent’ her iPhone to her daughter to buy herself a little uninterrupted time at the supermarket. Thirty minutes later she got the phone back, but not before the six-year-old had racked up $100 on iTunes by buying Smurfberries!
In-app purchases, whether they are for decorating a Smurf Village or upgrading to the latest weaponry in Contract Killer: Zombies, are just one of the hazards that face inexperienced users of today’s complex mobile devices. Add in random texting, inappropriate Web content, location tracking and malware, and it’s not surprising that parents are sometimes reluctant to buy that first smartphone.
The good news is that as hardware and operating systems have become more sophisticated, so have the protections that can safeguard our kids. Apple has frequently updated its Restrictions option, which allows parents to disable many of the iPhone’s features, including Safari, access to YouTube and iTunes, and even use of the camera. While most Android devices still rely on third-party apps to provide security, some manufacturers are not waiting for Google to catch up and are adding parental controls of their own.
Perhaps Windows Phone 8 offers the best safety controls of all the major operating systems with its excellent Kid’s Corner. This option, which can be accessed through Settings, allows you to set up a password protected area on your phone just for your kids. You can then add games, music, videos, books or apps, so your kids have a ‘fenced’ area to play in with no possibility of getting to more sensitive areas of your phone.
However, if you are truly starting out with your kid’s first smartphone, then the best way to put some protections in place is your carrier’s mobile protection controls — these days, they ALL have them so check with them first. Your carrier’s suites will feature free or paid services in everything from content filters to spam blocking to full location-monitoring software
Whatever safeguards you choose, make sure that they are tailored to your family and the way your children use their phones. As your kids become older and better able to manage their devices, you can cut back on the safeguards and give them a little more freedom. But when you give your child that first phone, you want to know that he’s more connected than ever and not left to figure things out on his own. Safety is always important.
Monica Vila is TheOnlineMom -a community devoted to promoting a healthy understanding and appreciation for the positive role technology can play in a child’s life. She’s constantly chatting on Facebook here or on Twitter @TheOnlineMom where you are more than welcome to join the conversation.