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Back-To-School Tech Safety 2017: Part II

It’s the first day of school and all the parents are celebrating!

Teachers? Well, maybe a little.

The kids?  Not so much…

The new school year brings a lot of new gadgets into play and parents need to understand that the new capabilities these devices bring also include new dangers.

Let’s take a look at Part II of our look at Back-To-School Tech Safety 2017!

We are going to look at two closely related items that parents need to consider as kids return to school:  Cell Phones and Tablets!

CELL PHONES

It seems like every child has a cell phone, usually a better one than Mom and Dad have.  That makes a little sense, sort of, since the kids understand how to use all those features while Mom and Dad are still trying to figure out how to text a picture to Grandma!!!

Wise parents, however, will thoughtfully consider what they put into their children’s hands.  We have to remember that smart phones give our kids access to the world, and vice versa!  Therefore, it is important to not only make sure their phones are age-appropriate but that reasonable safety precautions are in place.

Let’s look at three categories of kids:

  • Children (4/5 through 11/12)
  • Youth (11/12 through 15)
  • Mid-Teens (15 – 18)

CHILDREN:

Some people think that young children should have phones, and others think that it is ridiculous to give a child an expensive device! Well, they are both partly right. When I was a child there were pay-phones and land-lines everywhere!  Today you’d have to search to find a pay phone outside of an airport or bus terminal.  As mobile as our society is we need to make sure our children have a reliable means of communicating to parents, and vice-versa!  I agree that giving a child a phone is a serious safety consideration in our modern society.

But, YOUNG CHILDREN DO NOT NEED A SMART PHONE!  The idea is to give them a phone for their safety, etc.  It doesn’t make sense, then, to give young children access to social media and the world-wide web when we choose to give them a phone.  The dangers posed by cyber-bullying, predators and pornography far outweigh the safety advantages of having the phone to begin with! By giving our kids “the best” we endanger them even more!

So, what is a smart parent to do?  Give children in this age  bracket a FLIP-PHONE!  Yes, they still exist and you can get some that work on a pay-as-you-go plan.  This enables you to have the kids earn a portion of their bill and be responsible for it!  Plus, flip phones tend to be slower and a bigger pain to text on, so hopefully kids will pay attention more in class!  Maybe….

I know…I know!  The kids are going to whine and cry and fuss.  When they do, compare what you are giving them to the car keys.  It would be foolish to give a child a car that they could drive, even if they thought they knew how to do so safely.  Even if their friends parents gave their kids a car, YOU are not that dumb!   You and your spouse want to keep them safe.  So,  Mom and Dad are starting them off with the flip phone and will gladly upgrade them to a smarter phone when they are older and have DEMONSTRATED their ability to be responsible with technology as well as dealing with school work and chores.

You can even quote SPIDERMAN:  “With great power comes great responsibility!”  Smart phones have huge power in their lives, so they have to be older and more responsible in order to get one.

YOUTH:

As kids get older, entering Intermediate and Middle schools, they will actually need some of the capabilities that come with a smart phone:

– Ability to look up information
– Access to and use of a calendar, contact list, and calculator
– Ability to run apps supplied by, or recommended by, the teachers.

The problem is, they aren’t ready to “drive the car” yet, either!  So, they must be protected from themselves through the use of filters and parental controls.  This is why I recommend only one cell phone for children in the 11/12 – 15 age group:

THE iPHONE!

The iPhone is recommended due to its superior security and its built-in parental controls. ANDROID phones, while cheaper (some of  them….), do not have adequate safeguards for “kids being kids”, in my opinion.  While you can add monitoring and control apps to an Android phone that drives up the cost, especially since the apps are often purchased on an annual subscription basis.

Let’s look at two issues; Security and Controls.

Security:  The debate about the relative security of iOS vs. Android operating systems is ongoing, but I recommend reading these articles from respected technology/financial sites:

Barron’s:   Android vs. iOS: Are iPhones Really Safer?
ComputerWorld:  iPhone vs. Android: Which is better for you?

Controls: Apple’s iOS has significant parental controls BUILT INTO THE OPERATING SYSTEM!  This includes:

– Restricting the ability to add/delete apps
– Restricting the ability to make in-app purchases
– Turning certain apps on/off
– Limiting access to apps, TV shows, and movies by rating
– Turning off SAFARI, the camera, and other features
– Tracking via FIND MY FRIENDS and FIND MY iPHONE
– And much more!

Parents can lock these settings in with a code.   Worried that kids will try to crack the code?  Mis-typing the code more than a few times triggers time locks on the device!!

Knights’ Quest has a 2-part video that walks you through the basics of Apple’s parental controls.  You can find Part I below:

This is why I strongly recommend Apple iPhones for this age group.

Some parents may feel the need for even more extensive controls and tracking.  If so, Knights’ Quest recommends the following;

TEENSAFE
QUSTODIO
COVENANT EYES

MID-TEENS:

Your child is entering the mid-teen years!  Soon, they will be driving, going out with friends, and more.  Your goal between now and when they leave home for college, the military, or Life, is to get them used to setting their own proper boundaries. This includes technology use.  For this reason I recommend letting the child choose what phone he/she wishes to use: Apple or Android.  This also enables you to help them put boundaries are into place, no matter which type of phone that they choose.

Regardless of their choice I recommend that you use a third-party app to monitor their postings and activities. Some parents and counselors disagree, saying this limits trust.  That’s true, if the parents ABUSE the use of the app, keeping the child under tight controls.  But, if the parent wisely uses the app to check up on the child and then use what they find to guide the child to correct behavior (or reward them for good choices), then these apps can do a world of good.  Unlike our youth, what a child does today with technology can adversely impact their future education, finances, and job situations

Knights’ Quest recommends these apps:

TEENSAFE
QUSTODIO
COVENANT EYES

Each of these has strengths and weaknesses.  It is important for families to examine features, with particular attention to the limitations of each package, and decide which one is best for them.

WARNING:  Do NOT use any parental control/monitoring apps that require “Jailbreaking” (Apple devices) or “Rooting” (Android devices).

NOT RECOMMENDED:

Due to various limitations in the area of parental controls, Knights’ Quest does not recommend the following for children under 16:

– Windows-based phones
– Chromebooks

TABLETS

With regards to tablet use, Knights’ Quest recommends Apple iPads for children under 16.  The same parental controls that are found in the iPhone are also in the iPad.  One particular issue, though, is that children under 16 should not have tablets that communicate through the cell phone system. They should be WIFI ONLY!

For the youngest children parents may wish to consider a KINDLE FIRE tablet with parental controls enabled, especially with the Kindle FreeTime app.  Our step-by-step video comes out this Fall!

Older children, depending on maturity and demonstrated responsibility, may be able to have a table with 4G/LTE cell phone system connections, but in this case parental controls are a must!

Knights’ Quest recommends these apps for tablets:

QUSTODIO
COVENANT EYES

NOTE: TeenSafe does not work on Android Tablets as of July 2017.

REMEMBER!

Children, regardless of age, should not have any screens in their bedrooms:  Phones, tablets, game systems, or TVs!  All of these devices should end the day in a charging station in a central, public area of the house! (This also facilitates Mom and Dad reviewing the devices from time-to-time.)

Well, that’s Part II on BACK-TO-SCHOOL TECH SAFETY.  Next week, in Part III, we will discuss online accounts and social media!

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