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Teaching Good Smartphone Habits

By Guest Blogger

This past Holiday season, I decided to finally deliver on the item that’s been #1 on my youngest daughter’s Christmas wish list for the last two years – I bought her a smartphone. Any trepidation I might have felt about her being too young for a smartphone – she is still in 7th grade – was temporarily dispelled by the look of sheer joy when she found the compact little box hiding under the tree.

I use the word ‘temporarily’ because although I knew how much enjoyment owning a smartphone would bring, I was also aware that putting such a powerful device in immature and inexperienced hands could have its drawbacks, a lesson I had learned only too well from her older siblings!

So, as I sat down to show her how to set-up her e-mail accounts, how to adjust the settings, and how to download Temple Run from the app store, I also took the opportunity to tell her about a few other things that don’t figure so prominently in the set-up manual. Here are the items that were at the top of my list:

Think before you text

Even if your child is not old enough for Facebook, it’s never too early to preach the mantra of ‘think before you post’ or in the case of a smartphone ‘think before you text.’ And I’m not just talking about sexting, which is at the extreme end of smartphone abuse. I’m talking about texts that might be regarded as harmless fun by some of friends but hurtful by others. Like e-mail and tweets, texts have a way of multiplying. If you don’t want the whole world to see it, don’t send it!

Use passwords

Inputting a password every time you want to use your phone can be a chore but it’s a good discipline, particularly for a child. Password protecting a smartphone encourages a sense of ownership and reminds a child that the device is valuable and needs to be looked after. It’s also good training for later in life when her smartphone fills up with sensitive data that really does need protecting.

Be mindful of app permissions

Apps are great fun, particularly some of the games and special effects, but make sure your child reads and understands what the app is allowed to do before downloading. Does a game app need to know your location? Should an app be allowed to make calls without your knowledge? Are you committing to future in-app purchases? If your child is too young to answer some of these questions, then make it a rule that all downloads need to be approved by you before they happen.

Don’t click on unknown links

Most smartphones don’t have anti-malware tools built-in and mobile e-mail platforms don’t have the sophisticated spam filters that are present on desktop applications. That means lots of spam and lots of unsafe links. Rule: If you don’t know where a link came from, don’t click on it.

Don’t text and walk

Even if your child is too young to drive, texting while carrying out any other activity can be almost as hazardous. If you don’t want your child to walk into lockers, ladders, or worse, teach her to wait until it’s safe before burying her head in the screen!

Do you have tips for safe smartphone use for kids? Share them with The Online Mom!

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