Mobile phones have become an integral part of our lifestyles. Looking for the latest news or social media posts? In need of a camera, map, credit card or the time? How about a quick email check before doing a little shopping? The list goes on — you name it and your phone is there to provide it instantly. With their power and convenience comes responsibility; since the more it does, the more information it collects — leaving behind a digital record of every interaction and activity. That makes it so important for parents to educate children on best practices that will help ensure their security. Here are 12 tips to help kids use smart phones safely.

  1. Set a strong password. Your child should take the time to create a strong password — or Face or Fingerprint ID — and not share it with anyone but a parent or trusted adult. Help them use multi-factor authentication and enable auto-lock, which kicks in after a set time. Remember: phones are miniature computers with personal information that needs protection.
  2. Get permission to download. Great care should be taken when downloading apps. Kids, especially younger children, should check with a parent before doing so. After downloading an app, help them enable all privacy and location settings.
  3. Only respond to familiar numbers. Kids should not answer a call or text from an unfamiliar number and never click links or call phone numbers in suspicious messages. They should especially avoid opening attachments from an unknown or untrusted source. If in doubt, kids should tell a parent or a trusted adult, who can report the problem and block the caller. They should be especially aware of not sending photos or videos to a stranger and never to meet strangers in person if asked.
  4. You are what you communicate. Remember that everything shared by phone is public, so kids should think before hitting send. They should also never write a message or forward a photo or text that they wouldn’t want shared with everyone in school, their teachers or parents.
  5. Ask before shooting and sharing. Kids should always ask before including someone in a photo or video, or before sharing a text. Ask your child: “How would you feel if someone took and forwarded an unflattering photo of you?”
  6. Never broadcast a location. If an app asks to access your child’s location, say no. Apps can identify where kids are if GPS is enabled, as well as exactly where and when a picture was taken, whether at home, school or on vacation. Play it safe by disabling this function.
  7. Be mindful. Help your child become aware of how much time is being spent on their phone each day, and to avoid feeling obligated to respond to every text or social media post right away. It’s good to take time away from phones and enjoy more time with friends and family. When doing homework, they should put their phone away — and not get distracted while walking outdoors or playing.
  8. Keep it safe. Kids should remember to keep their phone charged — ideally charging overnight and in another room — and to protect it from spills, scratches and drops. They should be discreet as well. Keeping it tucked out of sight when not in use and never leaving it in a vehicle or unattended in public as they are an easy target for thieves.
  9. Keep phone and tablets up to date. Regularly update operating systems, software and applications. Mobile operating system (OS) updates can include anything from a completely new version to a ‘patch’ or fix to strengthen security, remove bugs or improve functionality. Make sure your child knows to always update when prompted and turn on automatic updates if available.
  10. Be careful with Bluetooth. Bluetooth technology can automatically link phones to nearby devices like wireless headphones, printers and keyboards. Advise your kids to turn off Bluetooth when not using it, so that hackers cannot connect and access personal information. They should take extra care when pairing with anything via Bluetooth and encourage your child to ask a parent or teacher if in doubt.
  11. Connect carefully. When connecting to Wi-Fi networks, kids should make sure they are secure. Public and unsecured private Wi-Fi networks can be a perfect opportunity for hackers to access a mobile device.
  12. Ask for help. If anything that makes your child uncomfortable or confused pops up on their phone, they should talk to a trusted adult or a teacher right away for advice on what to do

The modern features and remarkable convenience of mobile phones have made them indispensable to lifestyles today. It is therefore imperative to educate your child on how to use phones appropriately and safely. Kids are typically on the move all day and hackers looking for victims can quickly gain access to their phones and personal information unless the proper precautions are followed at all times. A phone is a privilege. It should be treated with respect and used intelligently.