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Does your child own a smartphone? Presenting, the smart Indian mom’s guide to ensuring child safety against mobile security threats.
By Anindita Mishra
Sometimes we Indian moms don’t really listen to reason. We do what our hearts say; or more precisely, what those little brats we bring forth to this world say. Well, the biggest weakness of any parent is a smile on the child’s face and we can do anything to see the child’s face light up with that happy smile.
Even if it entails giving in to their demands and gifting them expensive gadgets that they don’t really need. Like mobile phones, or specifically, smartphones. Yet, do we know that smartphones are a threat to child safety? (Read part 1 on how to keep children safe online too!)
We know in the heart of our hearts that our little darlings don’t really need smartphones. If they need to go out unescorted or stay at home alone, a phone is necessary but any cellphone would do quite well. But no! The kids have their little hearts hooked to those devices that allow them to network with friends, download songs, and check out new YouTube videos and play games.
They whine that their friends strut around with iPhones or tablets, and they can’t have one itsy-bitsy (read cheap) Internet-enabled phone? We don’t want to give in to their demands but then we don’t want them to feel inferior to their friends either, do we? So we stipulate that they have to score really well in the final exams. And they did, leaving us with no options but to purchase that phone. And we do it, shoving aside the good advice offered by child experts on children and smartphones, warnings from well-meaning friends and turning a blind eye to all reports of scams on mobile phones.
So what’s next?
Being a mom, I know what is next – a sense of contentment and pride that is slowly replaced by gnawing doubts and concerns for the child’s safety. But what’s done is done and we can’t change it, without donning the persona of the Devil Incarnate and banning the use of the Internet on the phone. So we, the Smart Moms, find ways to ensure our darlings are safe with their phones and we also get our beauty sleep at night.
1. As soon as you buy the smartphone and even before you or the child download any app, install a smartphone security software. I use McAfee Mobile Security for my Blackberry and I am very satisfied with it
2. Next, set a password to protect the phone. You can find this option under the Security settings/tab on your smartphone. Decide on a ‘difficult to guess password’ and make your child promise he/she will never share it with anyone. Change the password regularly
3. Kids will naturally be eager to download apps. But teach them to do so only from reputed sites such as the Android Market for Android phones, the Ovi Store for Nokia devices or iStore for Apple devices. Avoid dubious sites and tell them how this might harm their phones and data
4. Spend some time with the kids reading user reviews of the apps they want to download. They will also feel secure if you are part of their decision-making process
5. Teach kids about mobile phone security and not to trust apps that ask for unnecessary access permissions, like access to address book or photo gallery
6. Help your child to regularly back up their mobile devices, to prevent any data loss. If you don’t know how to, go to the mobile phone company’s home page and read up on it
7. Do not allow young ones to browse the web on their phones. This has to be a firm rule with related penalties. Malware makers use mobile ads to trick users into installing infected apps
8. Another good smartphone security tip is to keep the Bluetooth and WiFi connections turned off when not needed. If the Bluetooth or WiFi are on, the risk of getting hacked is higher. Also they drain the battery.
9. Educate kids on the ills of geotagging. Go to camera and turn off this feature to prevent others from knowing the exact geographical location of the child
10. Insist that kids access only one social networking site from their phone. This will make it easy for you to keep track of all social networking activities
11. It is better that kids do not take the phones to the playground. They may accidentally damage them
12. Ensure that the phone is switched off during study hours and bedtime.
13. Do not allow the child to take the phone to the bedroom at night
14. Many schools have rules regarding bringing mobile phones to school. Make your child respect that
Well, if you have gone through the smartphone security tips and implemented them, you have earned the right to breathe easy; at least for a while. Parenting is a never-ending task; as you solve one problem another crops up. Till then, enjoy being a supermom!
*Photo credit: Toca Boca (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
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Another way to protect children is to install monitoring software on their smartphone. You can check the GPS location of your child, if it’s getting any unwanted text messages etc. and be sure everything is OK.
That’s right. I personally use McAfee Mobile Security for Smartphones. It allows me to ensure kids have access to only limited URLs when they play on my phone. Also I can back up data, remotely wipe data and keep off virus!
As a parent, I think it’s okay to “spy” on the kids’ cellphone to make sure that they are not going beyond their limitations. Sometimes even if we constantly remind our kids the dos and don’ts of using cellphone, they tend to forget. Thus monitoring their usage is something that parents should do.
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