Children and Cell Phones

I recently read an article that I would like to share with all the parents about children and cell phones.  It offered good, practical advice to parents. 

Protecting God's Children for Adults

 

What Age is Appropriate for Children to be Provided with a Cell Phone?

By Robert Hugh Farley, M.S.

Introduction

Recently, I was asked to speak at an Illinois Bar Association conference on the topic of "Understanding Child Sexual Abuse and the Technology Facilitated Complaint Victim". As a result of my presentation topic, I was also asked to provide input for the conference participants, who were family law judges and attorneys, on the issue of "What age is appropriate for a parent to provide their child with a cell phone?" 

Background

For years, law enforcement recommended putting the family computer in an open area and also putting a piece of tape over the web-cam lens when it was not in use as excellent techniques to protect children from online child predators. Today, with children and young people using mobile devices like smart phones and tablets almost exclusively, neither of these safety techniques effectively protects children.   

According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, there has been a huge increase over the years in media use among young people. The study found that 85% of teens aged 14 - 17 have cell phones, 69% of 11 - 13 year olds have cell phones, and 31% of children aged 8 - 10 have cell phones.1   

Traditional Cell Phone vs. Smart Phone

Traditional cell phones only allow the user to make and receive calls, texts, and, in some cases, take photos. A smartphone, on the other hand, allows the user to access the Internet and download apps-both of which can be very dangerous for children and young people.  

Caring adults may want to consider purchasing basic cell phones for children as a technique to keep them safe. These types of phones are actually still available, and don't include a camera, texting, or internet access. Another consideration is going online and purchasing an unsophisticated "kids" type of cell phone that only has 4 to 5 call buttons that can be preprogramed. 

Sometimes, caring adults consider passing down one of their own phones. If this is the case, it is important to always turn off all the extra device features that have been enabled. This would limit a child's access to apps and websites that could pose a danger. 

Consider the Child

Some parents focus on the danger of the child losing the new phone rather than being focused on the child having increased access to the Internet and being approached by an online predator. Not every child is the same - there is no magic numerical age for a parent to safely provide a child with a cell phone that does have Internet access.

The following are some behavioral characteristics and issues a parent who is contemplating buying a cell phone for their child should consider:

  • How responsible is the child? An independent and responsible child fulfills obligations at home and at school.  
  • Does the child recognize consequences? 
  • Is the child accountable for his/her own actions? Does he or she resist blaming others?  
  • What is the maturity level of the child? This would include what general characteristics, emotional characteristics and social characteristics the child exhibits both to you and with their peers. 
  • Does the child require a cell phone for some type of medical or safety reason? 
  • Does the child realize that having a cell phone is a privilege and not an entitlement? When I was a uniformed police officer, I would tell teens I had stopped for a traffic violation that having a driver's license is a privilege and not a constitutional right. A person is issued a driver's license based on the driving skills one exhibits and the vehicular rules that one agrees to follow. The same can be said with a child getting a cell phone-there there must be certain rules that the child agrees to follow. 

In most cases, a parent should have the final say on the boundaries connected with the cell phone as he or she is not only supplying and paying for the cell phone service, but also ultimately responsible for protecting the child from harm. 

Creating Boundaries

The following are some issues a parent who has actually purchased a cell phone for their child should consider:

  • In many cases, a parent can contact the cell phone provider and block Internet access and calls from phone numbers that the parent has not approved. Many cell phone companies allow the parent to cap the number of texts a user can send or receive as well as the number of voice minutes that the cell phone can be used.
  • The parent should designate certain times that the cell phone needs to be turned off-for or instance, during family meals, after 10 p.m., and during school hours.
  • Don't allow cell phones in your children's rooms at night in order to prevent them from texting or making calls after bedtime.
  • If you purchase a smartphone, insist that parental permission is required for the download of each app on a mobile device. This is easily facilitated by a parent retaining the password that is required to install a new app on the device. 
  • Be vigilant-physically examine the new phone on a regular basis to make sure that it has not been modified. Check that the features you have disabled have not been re-enabled by your child or a schoolmate.
  • If your child has a driver's license, insist that he or she never use the cell phone for calls or texting when driving. 

Conclusion

Technology continues to rapidly change. Even if we do not have children of our own, it is important for us to partner with parents and uphold boundaries with the young people in our life when it comes to cell phone usage and social media. Parents, teachers, and all of us who are charged with protecting children must continue our efforts to stay abreast of the many new devices, software programs, and the latest apps that may be used by young people as well as child predators seeking to manipulate and sexually abuse children.

 

 

Reference: 

1. "Generation M2, Media in the Lives of 8-to-18 Year Olds" A Kaiser Family Foundation Study, January 2010, Menlo Park, CA

 

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Pokemon Go: Can We Do More to Protect Our Children?

Dear parents,

This month's Virtus bulletin was very informative and I wanted to share it with you.  I know many students play Pokemon Go and it does a great job of getting kids to be active, but we want to make sure we are always vigilant and keep our children safe.


By
 Robert Hugh Farley, M.S.

Pokémon Go and Social Networking: Can We Do More to Protect Our Children?

According to research from the Family Online Safety Institute located in Washington D.C., parents are more concerned about their children's use of social media services, such as FacebookSnapchat and Instagram, than any other online activity. The 2014 research further states, "While many parents monitor their children's online activity and are confident in their ability to do so, the degree to which parents actively oversee their children's online activities and their confidence in their ability to do so decreases the older their child is." 

Law enforcement has frequently seen examples where a young person has been placed at risk because children and teenagers make online mistakes. Sometimes they have been lured by a child molester or they have innocently pushed boundaries too far, thereby risking their own personal safety. 

For example, Pokémon Go is a free, wildly popular, location-based, social-reality game App that was released to the public in July 2016. The players use their smart phone device's GPS technology capability and clock to locate, fight, and capture animated virtual creatures, called Pokémon.

A "PokéStop" is described as a location in the "real world," such as a building or a park, where players can collect items to help them in thePokémon Go virtual game world. Unfortunately, one of these PokéStops was recently reported by the media to be located at the entrance to a southern California rehabilitation center that housed, among other clients, 10 sex offenders.

Additionally, this App, which allows users to interact virtually with Pokémon characters nearby in the real world, also has a "Lure Feature" that players can use to attract both Pokémon and other users to their location for 30 minutes. Using the geolocation feature, these users are able to know where, when and how many people are going to be in the particular location. Not only does this feature offer a new playground for child molesters to potentially have one-on-one contact with young people, but some players have also reported beingrobbed of their devices and valuables when reaching the appointed "lure" location.  

As a result of these and other reports, and to reduce the likelihood of sexual exploitation to the children in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced with much fanfare on August 1, 2016 that a new Department of Corrections state regulation is in place. The enacted regulation states that as a condition of their sentence, registered sex offenders on parole are no longer be able to sign up for Pokémon Goand other Internet-enabled games. Unfortunately, this regulation only applies to the approximately 3,000 known New York sex offenders who are currently on parole. One can only imagine how many registered sex offenders across the United States, or those who have never been convicted or even arrested, are now happily utilizing this virtual game App to contact and then lure young people to meet. 

Can the government do more to protect children and teenagers from child sexual exploitation? If the government enacts such regulations and laws, should parents and caring adults rely on government regulations to monitor their children's online and other technology facilitated activities?

These questions are being contemplated by parents and government in the 28-member European Union (EU). A proposed new EU policy requires anyone under 16 years of age to obtain parental consent before using any social networking services, unless a regional national government lowers the age limit to 13 years of age. This means that EU teenagers under 16 will be required to seek permission from parents whenever signing up for a social media account, downloading an app or in some cases even using search engines. 

Sadly, even prior to the EU parental consent regulation taking effect, there will likely be YouTube or other online videos describing a variety of methods for young people to circumvent the age rule. Additionally, the proposed EU regulation cannot contemplate the ever-changing technology that is rapidly evolving. Who would have predicted the phenomenon of Pokémon Go a year ago?  

Will we witness some parents in the United States demanding their own government officials implement similar "parental consent" rules for social networking or virtual gaming? Will a government regulation requiring "parental consent" stop those under 16 years of age from using social media? Probably not! History has shown that regulations do not automatically protect children. For example, even though the U.S. government has regulated the sale of tobacco to those under 18 years of age since 1992, many young people still smoke cigarettes. 

Adults cannot be complacent. A frank discussion with children and teenagers on boundaries and limits when using technology, social media, virtual games and Apps is essential. Parental controls on device Apps that utilize a GPS tracking feature is an absolute requirement. One should never rely solely on government regulations or laws to protect young people. Parents, teachers and all of us who are charged with protecting children must also continue our efforts to stay abreast of the many dangers connected with the present and future electronic communication devices currently used by young people. 

A report regarding suspected crimes of child sexual exploitation or the technology facilitated solicitation of children can always be made, 24 hours7 days a week, to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)Cyber Tipline at www.cybertipline.com or 1-800-843-5678.

ESI policy

Dear parents,

Kansas enacted and policy on Emergency Safety Interventions last year.  As part of that policy, that is also now law, schools need to inform parents of our policy.  All of the teachers will also be trained on the policy.  Incidences of this nature are extremely rare but it is better to be prepared.  You can read the policy and a bookmark summarizing the policy by clicking on the documents link.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Mrs. Urban

St. Jude Catholic School

3030 N. Amidon
Wichita, KS 67204
316.838.0800
school@stjudewichita.org

 

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