Don’t let stalkers or abusers and creeps track your phone’s location

Modern cell phones know where you are. This can be a very good thing, but — in the wrong hands — it can also lead to potential abuse.

As Kaofeng Lee and Erica Olsen point out in the article, Cell Phone Location, Privacy and Intimate Partner Violence from the website of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV):

Sharing one’s location can be quite dangerous, however, when a stalker or abuser uses this information to stalk, harass, and threaten. For victims of domestic violence, assault or stalking, knowing how much information may be inadvertently shared about them is key to planning for privacy and safety.

NNEDV has more advice at Cell Phone & Location Safety Strategies

Fortunately, there are ways to control your phone’s location features. I’ll get to specifics for iPhones and Android phones later in this article.

Location for first responders

Although there are now plenty of commercial uses for location-aware devices, they were first put there — and required by the federal government — so that first responders could find you in an emergency. If you dial 911 from a landline, the operator knows exactly where you are because they can trace that phone’s location. That didn’t used to be the case for cell phones but now 911 operators have access to geolocation data from GPS satellites, Wi-Fi hotspots, Bluetooth signals and cellular networks.

Lots of location apps

But now that data can also be used for navigation, commercial purposes and a wide variety of apps, including some designed specifically to share your location  with others. There are “phone finder” apps that allow you (or anyone who knows your Apple or Google ID and password) to track your phone. There are apps designed to share your location with friends or family and there are apps like Yelp, Facebook and Foursquare designed to share your location with the app developer and — depending on how you use them — your friends on those services. Even photos you take with your smart phone (or a regular digital camera) can record your location and disclose it to those you share the photos with.

Turning off location (almost) completely

The good news is that (with the exception of e-911), you can turn off location completely or limit what apps have access to that location. Here’s how to turn it off (almost) completely:

iPhone or other iOS device:
This advice applies to iOS 7. Here’s an Apple help page that covers other versions

1. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services

2. Turn location services off by touching or swiping the Location Services slider. You can also turn off location awareness of specific apps by touching or swiping their slider just below the general location setting.

loc_off

Android

Location settings can be slightly different on different Android devices but in general:

Go to Settings and scroll down until you see Location. In some cases you need to first select General and then Location.

google lll

 

Controlling location history and what apps have access

You may want to use location for some purposes, such as navigation, but turn it off for other apps.

On an iPhone just below where you turn location on or off completely, you’ll find a list of apps that may be location aware. Simply turn off location for any apps that you don’t want to be able to access that information.

On an Android phone you can sometimes control location awareness from individual app’s menus. If not, consider deleting the app or turning off location in general.

Google also stores location history but you can turn that off or delete what’s been collected.

  1. Open Google Settings  from your device’s apps menu:
    • Devices running Android 4.3 or lower: Touch Location > Location History.
    • Devices running Android 4.4: Touch Account History > Google Location History > Location History.
  2. Touch Delete Location History at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Read the dialog box that appears, check the box next to “I understand and want to delete,” and touch Delete.
    (Source: Google location help page)

You can also delete specific location history by logging into your Google account and going to Google’s Location History website. From there you can delete individual locations, locations by date, or your entire location history.

Other considerations

Be aware that anyone who has physical access to your device can change the settings, so be careful who has access and check the settings periodically if you have reason to worry. Also, be careful about the apps that you install and how you use them. Look at the permissions that they ask for (especially location) and if you do install an app that can disclose your location, be careful how you use it. Something as innocuous as recommending a restaurant you’ve visited could get you in trouble. Kaofeng Lee & Erica Olsen recommend that domestic violence survivors “put a lock code on the phone” to make it harder for an abuser to modify your settings and they further warn survivors to “be careful not to install programs that are unknown, especially if the suggested app is from the abuser or mutual friends. Survivors should also make sure that family and friends do not download apps onto their phone without knowing about it or knowing what the app does.”

Parents can get mobile phone advice from A Parents’ Guide to Mobile Phones from ConnectSafely.org (the non-profit Internet safety organization where I serve as co-director).

This post first appeared on Forbes.com

Posted in Child safety | Comments Off

Don’t let stalkers or abusers and creeps track your phone’s location

Read the full post at Forbes.com

Posted in Child safety | Comments Off

Let’s stop persecuting ‘Auschwitz selfie girl’ for smiling at a camera

I grew up Jewish so I’m naturally very sensitive to the horrors that took place at Auschwitz during the Holocaust. I’m also very critical of Holocaust deniers and those who would minimize what the Nazis did to Jews, gays and other “undesirables.”

selfie

This selfie of a girl in front of Auschwitz has prompted unfair social media outrage

But I think we need to give that young girl who took a selfie at the concentration camp a break. Alabama teenager Breanna Mitchell has been vilified in social media for gross insensitivity for doing what many others have done before her.

I’ve been to concentration camps and other infamous places including ground zero in New York, Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam and battlefields in the U.S. and other countries where countless people were slaughtered and I’ve seen people taking pictures of themselves in front of these scenes with a big smile on their face. It’s natural. It’s what we’re taught to do when we stand in front of a camera.

And just because someone smiles in front of such a site, doesn’t mean they’re insensitive to what happened there. Breanna tweeted and told a TV interviewer (scroll down to watch) that she does “understand what happened there” and had planned to visit there with her dad, who died before they could make the trip.

Had this been a seasoned politician or journalist, I might criticize them (perhaps gently) for misjudgment. But this is a teenage girl who visited the site because she has a strong interest in the history of World War II and the Holocaust. If anything, she should be congratulated for caring about what happened there.

died

If I saw her partying at the site or trying to diminish the horror and historical importance of what happened there, I would think she was being insensitive, but smiling? Come on, we’re all taught to smile in pictures. I’d like to think I would have the judgement not to smile at such a locale, but I honestly can’t swear that I’ve never posed with a smile for a picture at such an important but horrible place.

It’s hard not to agree with her followup tweet, asking people to “quit tweeting to, quoting, retweeting and favoriting my picture…”

Look, social media is great. It’s our international “water cooler,” where we share our thoughts about just about anything. But sometimes it’s just too easy for people to use social media to express judgements that condemn others before really thinking about how you are affecting that person and his or her reputation.

So, this is a teachable moment for all of us. On one hand it’s a wakeup call to put more thought into those “selfies” and other spontaneous pictures that can so easily go viral. But on the other hand, it’s a lesson for the rest of us as well. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

omg

Posted in Child safety | Comments Off

Privacy and security tips for newly-minted college students

Univerity of Califirona Berkeley (Flickr Creative Commons -- photographer unknown)

University of California Berkeley (Flickr Creative Commons)

This post first appeared on Forbes.com

by Larry Magid

Congratulations. After a long and sometimes stressful childhood you (or your teen) are ready for college. It’s a big step that involves a great deal of freedom and independence and an exciting time.

When I started college, the big “risks” were gaining weight (the “freshman 15″), drugs and alcohol and of course accidents. Those are still with us, but so are hackers, online privacy risks and the possibility of getting into trouble because of something posted about you on social media.

Don’t drink and post

Depending on where it's taken, a picture like this could get a student into trouble (Flicr Creative Commons Gregg O'Connel)

Depending on where it’s taken, a picture like this could get a student into trouble (Flickr Creative Commons Gregg O’Connell)

There are verified cases of students being disciplined and even expelled because of what’s posted about them online. For example, it’s hardly shocking to hear about students under 21 enjoying a forbidden adult beverage in their dorm room, but when those pictures wind up on social media, school officials sometimes feel as if they have no choice but to take disciplinary action. Even if (as many do) you think it’s OK for an 18-year-old to drink in a dorm room, don’t force officials to react by doing so in public. The same, of course, goes for drugs or anything else that violates the law or school policy.

Hemanshu Nigam, a former federal prosecutor and one-time head of MySpace security who now runs SSP Blue, a safety, security and privacy consulting firm for online businesses, suggests that students “treat your social media presence like its your resume for future employers while you still have all the fun college is meant to deliver.”

Privacy

Many college students have roommates or at least suite mates and while you don’t want to hide things from your roomies, you do want to make sure that they aren’t riffling through your files. Of course, common courtesy should be sufficient to avoid that, but putting a password on your computer, tablet and phone can help keep a curious roommate or visitor from acting on an impulse. As always, don’t share those passwords with anyone, including roommates. Also, be aware of what you’re posting and what’s on your laptop’s screen when in the library or other public spaces,

Security

Cybersecurity is important for us all, but especially when you’re on a public or semi-public network like campus networks. Again, use strong passwords but also make sure that you’re using appropriate firewall and security software. Check with your school IT department as to what it recommends and whether it offers free software and/or security assistance. This may have been fixed since then, but when my son was living in a dorm at UCLA, he was able to see some of the files of his fellow residents because they were sharing a network and not properly securing their computers.

Physical security

Be very careful to protect your equipment from theft and loss. Kensington makes a security cable that enables you to lock (most) laptops to a desk or table. Make sure that any tablets and phones have the “find my phone” feature turned on. Both Apple and Android equip their phones and tablets with software that enables you to locate the device remotely and cause it to ring or wipe the data, but for the service to work, the device has to be turned on and connected to the Internet via WiFi or a cellular network. SSP Blue’s Nigam suggests that students “scratch your name, email and phone on all your devices in places where the ‘thief’ may not look.” He said that it’s very common for devices to get stolen and then recovered and this helps campus and regular police know it really belongs to you, especially if a student decides to remote wipe a stolen device.

Campus data breaches

There is also the risk that the school’s network and servers will suffer a data breach that can affect your personal information. There is little you can do to protect yourself from an attack on a cloud-system you don’t control, but if it happens, be sure to carefully monitor your bank and credit card accounts, your social media accounts and your campus accounts. You should change all of your passwords and avoid using the same password for multiple sites. Here’s advice on how to create and manage strong, unique passwords that are easy for you to remember and hard for others to guess.

For additional advice, check out ConnectSafely’s Parents Guides (that apply to students, too) on cybersecurity, mobile phones, Instagram, Snapchat and cyberbullying.

Also see ConnectSafely’s

Tips for Strong, Secure Passwords

 

Posted in Child safety | Comments Off

LG’s new tracking watch for young children

LG+KizON+0220140709095559726

There are lots of apps that can allow a parent to track their child’s phone. Assuming the phone and kid are together and the phone is turned on and in range, you can also use those apps to track your kid.

But now there’s a wearable device from LG just for that purpose. The KizON wristband, which was just released in South Korea and will be available in the U.S. and Europe later this year, comes in blue, pink and green and enables parents to track their kids from a smartphone or tablet. It’s also a phone without a dial, that the parents can use to call the kid or the kid can use to call a parent by pressing a button.

“Children as well as the elderly are ideal customers for wearable technologies,” said Dr. Jong-seok Park, president and CEO of LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company. He added that “Wearables allow us to stay connected without the worry of losing a device or the inconvenience of having to carry a large item in a pocket.”

The device’s battery is rated for 36 hours and parents will get an alert on their phone if the battery falls below 25%.

 

Posted in Child safety | Comments Off

The ‘real world’ is a lot more dangerous than cyberspace

by Larry Magid

This post first appeared on Forbes.com

The media is full of horror stories about online dangers, but — in all but a few categories — offline risk dwarfs its online equivalent.

Stranger danger vs. trusted adults

Let’s start with children. Every parent worries about their kids being harmed by strangers, but – whether offline or on — children are at far more risk from trusted adults than people they don’t know.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Facts, Myths and Statistics page, “in as many as 93% of child sexual abuse cases, the child knows the person that commits the abuse” and as many as 47% of the perpetrators are family or extended family members. And there are numerous cases of abuse by teachers, clergy, police officers, pediatricians and others kids trust. Based on actual risk statistics, instead of keeping kids offline, maybe we should keep them away from school, clinics, houses of worship and even their own homes.

We also worry about cyberbullying, but research from the Centers for Disease Control and other studies puts both the rate of cyberbullying below physical bullying. And, where cyberbullying does occur, it typically is an adjunct to bullying at school or other places where children gather. If you are concerned about cyberbullying, check out this parents’ guide I helped write.

Even sexting, which sometimes gets kids into legal trouble, has been blown out of proportion. As a general rule, I think it’s a bad idea to send out naked pictures of yourself — even to an intimate partner, but lots of people do and most of the time the pictures stay where they are intended and aren’t shared. But as problematic as it might be, it’s arguably a form of “safe sex” that — unlike real sex — can’t possibly cause a sexually transmitted disease or an unwanted pregnancy.

Physical safety

Like most parents, I worried about my kids’ physical safety, but I was a lot more worried about car and even bike accidents than about online dangers.  Hundreds of thousands of children and teens are injured annually in car accidents.

And don’t forget school sports. Every year children are injured playing baseball, football, soccer and other sports. Yet most families encourage school sporting programs because of all the benefits. Social networking, texting and smartphone use also benefits and even though they are associated with some risk, the harms associated with these technologies are a lot lower than what can happen on an athletic field.   According to Safe Kids Worldwide (not affiliated with my site, SafeKids.com), one in three children who plays a team sport is injured seriously enough to miss practice or games.

I’ve been a print and online journalist since the 1980′s but the most dangerous job I’ve ever had in the publishing industry was when I delivered newspapers by bicycle as a kid.

Although we were of course concerned about our kids’ online contacts, my wife and I were a lot more concerned about the friends they knew from school. Most, of course, were great, but I can think of a couple of who were pretty bad influences on our kids who, fortunately, had the discipline, resilience and self-respect to resist those negative influences. And there were also those non-friends, including the girls who bullied my daughter in middle school and the boys that bullied me in school, long before there even was an Internet.

And lest you think things have gotten worse since kids started going online, check out The Internet, Youth Safety and the Problem of “Juvenoia” by Crimes Against Children Research Center director David Finkelhor who points out that since the early 90′s, the rates of sexual assault, unwanted pregnancy and even bullying, crimes committed by teens and teen suicide has gone down, not up.

Risk for adults

Adults face risks both online and off. For example, there are risks associated with shopping online, but there are also risks when you shop offline. Your wallet could be stolen, you could leave the credit card at the store, the clerk could clone your card or you could have a car accident on your way to or from the store.

Adults who date online also take risks, but so do those who meet their partners in bars and other locations.

Regardless of our age, there are privacy risks when going online or using smartphones and I would agree that online tracking, phone geolocation features and the hundreds of thousands of mobile apps do present some privacy concerns that we don’t have in the physical world.  Still, there are plenty of reasons to worry about privacy in non-cyber settings, including school, workplaces, hospitals and even grocery stores that track what we buy. Failing to shred sensitive paper records remains a risk as does talking about private matters in public.

The bottom line is that we need to be concerned about all risks whether online or off, but we should thinking that technology related risks are any more pernicious or serious than ones we’ve been taking for centuries.

And, whether the risk comes from online or offline activities, we also need to remember that life can never be risk free. Everything we do has risks and the trick is to try to balance those risks while still enjoying life.

 

Posted in Child safety | Comments Off

Why I don’t want to hear about any new parental control products

It’s hard to get through a week without hearing about a new product designed to protect children online or on mobile devices. Some of these products block content, others give parents some control over who their kids can communicate with but most offer some sort of monitoring, giving parents a glimpse into what their kids are doing on their mobile and other connected devices. Increasingly, these products are being marketed as a way of detecting and preventing bullying.

It’s not uncommon for these products to be developed or at least inspired by parents who have had an experience with their kid being bullied or exposed to inappropriate material. The parent may have been outraged by the incident with a sincere desire to help other parents avoid the same issues.

My advice to anyone thinking about creating such a product is to first take stock of the many other products and services in this already saturated field and second take note that even those products — collectively — have relatively low penetration rates.

I also urge any would-be parental control entrepreneurs to consider that one product can’t possibly serve all families. Controls that block inappropriate content usually work well for young children but not for older ones. Products to monitor Internet or mobile use may be necessary for some kids, but not for most. Studies have shown that kids who get into some type of trouble online are usually risk-takers in other aspects of their lives as well. And if you think a monitoring program will stop cyberbullying, consider that the majority of bullying takes place in-person and not online, and even when it is online (or mobile) it is often a reflection of what’s going on at school or wherever kids gather in the physical world. For more on bullying, see A Parents’ Guide to Cyberbullying.

And, before you think you’re going to earn a lot of money from your product, be aware that there are a number of excellent free parental control tools from Microsoft, Symantec and other companies.

I’m not aware of any accurate up-to-date data on the parental control marketplace but everyone I’ve spoken with in the know admits that it’s pretty small. A 2011 study done by Hart Research for the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) found that just over half the parents (53 percent) said they have used controls to limit or monitor their child’s online behavior with products ranging from PC filtering programs that limit what sites a child can visit to services that monitor children’s activities on mobile devices. But “have used” is not the same as using. I’m one of many parents who used controls for a short period of time and then stopped after realizing that having occasional conversations with my kids was a more effective, and lasting, way to influence their behavior. 

Even though the survey found that 47 percent of parents haven’t used these tools, 87 percent of them were aware that such tools are available, and 93% had a set rule to limit or monitor their children’s Internet usage. Parents know these products exist and most have other ways to help their kids stay safer online.

That same study found that 60% of parents who are not using controls say that controls aren’t necessary because they have household rules that their kids follow.

And even for parents who do feel a need to use parental-control software or service, it’s important to remember that they are never a substitute for common sense, engaged parenting and — most important — teaching kids to be respectful of others, self-protective and resilient. Eventually your kids will grow up and one of the purposes of childhood is to learn to protect yourself long after mommy and daddy and whatever tools they employ are off the job.

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 7.53.37 AM

FOSI survey summary. Click here or on image for full-size infographic

Links

Digital citizenship & media literacy beat tracking laws & monitoring

Evolution of online safety: Lessons learned over 20 years

The Internet, Youth Safety and the Problem of ‘Juvenoia’,” by David Finkelhor PhD

Posted in Child safety | Comments Off

PTA panel tackles digital citizenship (slideshow)

I was honored to be on a panel at the National PTA Conference in Austin, Texas focusing on digital citizenship (scroll down for a description and list of fellow panelists).

Panelists explored both the meaning of digital citizenship and strategies for educating students and parents on how to navigate 21st century technology productively and safely. While cognizant of challenges, each speaker emphasized the incredible value of technology at school and at home, stressing the importance of access while reflecting on how parents and kids can put thought into how they present themselves in a digital environment.

The panel was sponsored by Lifelock, which is helping support the PTA’s efforts in this area. ConnectSafely.org is working with the PTA on digital citizenship, Safer Internet Day and the One Good Thing campaign. 

Here’s my KCBS radio segment about the panel.

Below is my PowerPoint that covers the evolution of online safety, some thoughts on risk and protection, my definition of digital citizenship (which includes rights) and a bit about ConnectSafely.org and the work we’re doing.

PTA’s description of session

When students do homework on their tablet or computer or network with friends, how do we ensure they are creating a thumbprint of their digital self that will positively affect their present and future? How do we establish screen time limits? How do we make sure that positive social media etiquette is as natural as looking both ways before crossing the street?

A panel of leading experts including National PTA, a leading online safety organization, and educators will lead a discussion about the best ways to engage with our kids to establish safe practical ways that students, parents and teachers can encourage simple and effective online habits that will carry through to adulthood.

Attendees will also learn ways to engage student leaders in bringing awareness to this issue, especially during celebrations like Digital Citizenship Week in October and Safer Internet Day in February.

Speakers:

  • Mary Pat King, Director of Programs & Partnerships, National PTA
  • Catherine Teitelbaum, Digital Safety Expert and Consultant for LifeLock
  • Larry Magid, Co-director, ConnectSafely.org
  • Rebecca Levey, Co-founder, KidsVuz.com
Posted in Child safety | Comments Off

Aspen task force would take learning ‘back to the future’

This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

The Aspen Institute Task Force on Learning and the Internet released an outstanding report whose title, “Learner at the Center of a Networked World,” suggests a radical rethinking of how we approach education.

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 12.38.54 PMThe report was the product of about 20 leaders with expertise in technology, public policy, education, safety and privacy including my co-director at ConnectSafely.org, Anne Collier. Jeb Bush and Rosario Dawson served as honorary co-chairs.

I’ll get to the report in a moment, but as I read it, I couldn’t help to reflect back to my own experiences from a few decades ago, beginning when I was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley.

In 1967 I had the privilege of being one of the student coordinators of Berkeley’s Center for Participant Education, a student-initiated course program that was born out of Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement. CPE, like other “free universities” and “alternative schools” that popped up around the world in the ’60s and ’70s, promoted student-centered learning by giving students the power to initiate and help direct their own learning, using resources from local faculty, the community and subject matter experts, including some without traditional academic credentials. By getting faculty sponsors, we were able to offer academic credit for non-traditional learning.

There was no Internet back then, but we did have museums, libraries and access to people from the community such as artists, musicians, bakers, bankers, park rangers, social activists, and people with and without all sorts of advanced degrees and impressive credentials, including some who were internationally recognized as leaders in their fields. And — even without the Internet — there were plenty of other resources, including newsletters, films, records, and of course, books and periodicals. We didn’t have blogs, but we did have mimeograph machines and megaphones. But, mostly, we had an attitude that students were the center of their own learning and that any student had the right to help fashion a learning environment, based on his or her own needs and learning style.

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 1.18.55 PM

A.S. Neill’s Summerhill was written in 1960 and helped inspire the movement for educational reform

In 1969, I moved to Washington, D.C., to run the Center for Educational Reform, a Ford Foundation project of the now-defunct National Student Association, that helped bring this concept to universities and secondary schools around the country. Another nonprofit, New Schools Exchange, published a newsletter that supported hundreds of student-centered “free schools,” where even young children were able to help shape their own learning environment.

Fast forward to 2014. Technology has unleashed incredible resources for individualized learning, but — somewhere between 1970 and today — educational reform got hijacked and redirected by well-meaning policymakers whose strategy seems to be more aimed at preparing students to take standardized tests and less toward student and parent empowerment and the ability for young people to articulate and achieve their own dreams, goals and aspirations.

So, imagine my delight that a group of 21st century experts assembled by the Aspen Institute took us back to the future with recommendations for a “new culture of learning” where “learners must move from the passive absorption of content to a new sense of agency that enables them to find a path that makes sense for their individual interests and learning styles.” These are great ideas, reminiscent of what pundits like John Holt, Ivan Illich, Herb Kohl and Jonathan Kozol wrote back in the ’60s.

What is different of course is that with modern technology there are no more excuses for education to remain in the dark ages. As the Aspen report ably documents, the proliferation of broadband and mobile devices is already “helping students chart their own unique pathways of learning subjects as well as adjusting the pace of their learning.”

I fully support the task force’s recommendations, which include redesigning “learning environments to empower learners to learn any time, any place, and at any pace, both in school and beyond,” as well as building “an infrastructure that will connect all students in all of the places they learn.” The task force also called for open standards and “protocols that simplify and promote interoperability of learning resources” and — my favorite recommendation — that schools adopt “policies to incorporate digital, media and social-emotional literacies as basic skills for living and learning in the digital age.”

I also applaud the Aspen task force for taking on laws like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which, though intended to empower parents to protect their children’s privacy, has the effect of preventing children under 13 from participating in popular social media services along with what the report called the “unintended consequence of encouraging children to make use of sites that do not attempt to enforce COPPA’s restrictions and that may be less conscientious about protecting young users.”

The task force also calls for “deeper research on the efficacy” and possible negative side effects of privacy and safety laws such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and various state laws.

I’m not anti-regulation and I certainly agree that government has a role to play in protecting the privacy of both children and adults, but I agree with the task force that we need to examine the unintended consequences of even the most well-meaning legislation.

Links

Learner at the Center of a Networked World splash page. Full report (PDF)

A task force report & a student bill of rights: Task Force member and ConnectSafely co-director Anne Collier’s commentary about the report and the work of modern-day student activists

Make personalized learning a realty says ed tech task force: Observations and commentary by Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) CEO Stephen Balkam

 

 

Posted in Child safety | Comments Off

Parents have a lot to learn about mobile safety, privacy and security: from their kids

After spending a lot of time writing and editing our new free booklet, A Parents’ Guide to Mobile Phones, my ConnectSafely.org colleagues and I came to the realization that parents do have a lot to learn — from their own kids.

Sure, our guide has all sorts of tips and suggestions, but our most important point is that parents should talk with their kids about their mobile use.  Note I said “with,” not “to.” An open, two-way conversation with your kids about their mobile use is a lot more effective than a lecture. Besides, you might discover they know more about safety, privacy and security than you think. Maybe more than you do.

ConnectSafely produced the guide in partnership with CTIA, with support from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.

Studies from Pew Research Center and as well as ethnographic research from danah boyd and others have found that kids are far from clueless when it comes to privacy and safety issues. That’s not to say that your kids don’t have anything to learn — we all do — but that you shouldn’t assume that they’re using their technology in a reckless fashion, even if you’ve seen some press reports making that claim.

Advice for parents

As far as our guide is concerned, we advise parents on things that matter including the best age to get a child their first cell phone, how to make sure your child’s privacy is protected and how you can help assure your child uses apps that are safe and appropriate. We also talk about how to use the phone’s settings to maxiumize privacy and security and advise parents to be sure their kids are using a pass code of some type to make sure that others can’t use their phone. In addition to protecting their data, keeping others from accessing their phone reduces the risk of someone using it to harass or bully others and get your kid into trouble.

Location

The guide warns parents about the possible misuse of geolocation — the feature that allows apps to pinpoint the phone’s (and therefore the user’s) location. While these features can enhance safety and give parents the ability to track their kids, they can also be misused. As we say in the guide, “With the exception of E911, it’s possible to turn off geolocation, either for the entire phone or just for specific apps.”  Parents and kids “can review the apps on their phones to see which apps share location. If you’re uncomfortable with any of them, you can try to turn off the app’s location feature or just delete the app.”

Tools

There are parental control tools from carriers, phone makers and app developers that parents can use to monitor or even limit what they’re kids can do on their phones and while such tools can be helpful in some cases, they’re not for every kid. If you do use monitoring or filtering tools, talk with your kids about why you’re using them and consider weaning them away from those tools as they show that they are responsible mobile users. Kids don’t stay kids forever and our goal as parents is to teach them the critical thinking skills that will last a lifetime in whatever situations they encounter. As my ConnectSafely co-director Anne Collier pointed out, “safety, privacy and security depend less and less on external safeguards (such as parental control tools, which can give parents a false sense of security) and more and more on the “filtering software” in their heads and hearts.

A Parents Guide to Mobile Phones is available in both English and Spanish.

 

Posted in Child safety | Comments Off