15 July 2013
When Your Kids Use Mobile Devices: Monitoring Your Children on the Go

Kids and computers have grown up together. Today’s youngsters are at home using smart phones, tablets, laptops and yes, even desktops (sometimes called “grandfather boxes” by your kids or grandkids). Teens are online and on-the-go when you’re not there to watch them.

So what can you do to help keep your kids safe in an inter-connected world where new “friends” may not be all that friendly?

Internet Access on the Go: DANGER

When kids, and the rest of us, were limited to Internet access using a desktop or laptop, it was fairly easy to track your child’s online activity by setting parental controls, keeping the computer in a central location, creating separate accounts for each family member, and monitoring everyone’s search history.

Today, using smart phones and tablets, your kids can access the Internet from anywhere. You may not know the websites your child visits, and tracking online activity is much more difficult than before – especially for those of us who aren’t as digitally up-to-date as our own children. (We may ask THEM to fix our laptop.)

Because kids are tech-savvy, or they know friends who are, it’s easy to disable the GPS tracking system built into many smart phones. It’s also easy to erase call and texting history, as well as stored messages, pictures, and other data.

Your “smart-phone-tablet-toting” kids have Internet access 24/7 –tracking their activity online takes quality tracking software that’s hidden, or locked, on mobile devices so it can’t be disabled.

Kids Are Online – Everywhere

A recent Pew study* found that smart phone use by ‘tweens and teens is extremely popular and widespread.

According to the study:

  • 78% of teens have a cell phone, and 47% of those have smart phones that allow users to carry the Internet in their pockets.
  • 23% of youngsters have a tablet – a bigger “smart phone” that uses apps to perform a variety of online and offline functions.
  • 93% of our kids have a computer or access to a computer at home.
  • 25% of teens primarily use smart phones to access the Internet.

So, if your child accesses the Internet using a smart phone or tablet, out of your sight, what can you do?

Tracking Software

There are numerous tracking apps that download to your child’s smart phone or tablet. Some of the most popular include: KytephoneTM, Net Nanny®, FBI Child ID (developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation), and iEmergency ICE Family Pro.

When shopping for a tracking app for your child’s smart phone or tablet, look for the following features listed below. You may have to download two apps to get all the features you want.

  • Built-in, locked-in GPS so you always know where your child is
  • Parental control of which apps your child can and cannot download and use
  • Smart phone or tablet activity history – who did your child call and what sites did he visit?
  • Ability to block access to certain types of inappropriate web sites
  • Parental controls to manage from whom your child can receive texts, and to whom she can send texts
  • Ability to block calls from and to individual parties
  • Automatic dial of 911 in case of emergency (ICE) with a tap of the smart phone or tablet screen app logo
  • Ability to automatically dial for roadside assistance with a tap
  • Ability to automatically dial YOU with a tap
  • Display of complete family and medical history of the child, including medical allergies, blood type, conditions, and complete contact information so emergency personnel can reach YOU fast
  • Locking function so the app can’t be disabled or removed

That last point is crucial. Download tracking apps that can be locked, or hidden in the background, so your child can’t disable them.

Emergency information should be accessible to your child and authorized personnel, but make sure you can lock the app in place with your PIN.

Then, keep the personal identification number a secret to help protect your kids from digital dangers. If the app can’t be locked, it can be disabled by most smart-phone-using teens. Get an app YOU lock in place.

Take steps to educate your child on safe online practices and potential dangers, and add a child-proof app to your youngster’s smart phone to keep “eyes on” even when he’s out on his own.  Be pro-active, stay pro-active, and utilize the tools available to watch over your children’s internet use, no matter where they are.

 

*www.pewinternet.org/~/media/Files/Reports/2013/PIP_TeensandTechnology2013.pdf

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.

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