I often discuss with my friends the pros and cons of the technology that’s available today as it relates to youngsters. Even though technology seems to make things much easier for us, it also opens the world up for our kids, probably a little more than many of us parents would like it to be opened.
Take cell phones, for example. Let’s say that you have a kid who likes to push the limits or, okay, one who likes to break rules. (There, I said it.) She could use the cell phone to fib about her whereabouts. She could use a cell phone to access things she isn’t supposed to, online. She could stay up half the night talking (or texting) on the phone, exactly like kids back in the day used to stay up half the night READING, but way less educationally. Or something like that.
Let’s say that you give your young child a cell phone and he is not even a sneaky kid but just doesn’t know better. Do you want him accidentally stumbling on a pornographic video when he’s searching for something altogether different? Do you want him downloading a bunch of games that cost money? Do you want him calling Australia? (Well, I guess if you live in Australia this isn’t a big deal but the majority of my readers are in North America so let’s go with that scenario.)
What are parents supposed to do?
Luckily, cell phone carriers are starting to catch up with kids. T-Mobile has come out with a bunch of pretty cool options for their account holders (like me!), and I was recently a guest at an event where we learned about them. (Disclosure: I was not asked to write this post but thought it was good info so I’m passing it along!)
FamilyWhere: Uses GPS tracking to locate your kid (ahem, as long as he has his cell phone on him). He can check in with you discreetly with one click that will send you a text message showing his whereabouts. By the way, if his GPS is off, you will get a wider area when he checks in: not as exact so it’s best–obviously–to keep the GPS on.
Family Allowances: Sets limits on text messaging, calling, and game downloads.
Lookout Mobile Security: Helps you find your phone when it’s lost, even if it’s in your pocket.
Web Guard: Adds age-appropriate filters to protect kids from seeing things they shouldn’t be seeing.
These features are add-ons to T-Mobile service (Web Guard is free!) and you can find out more information about them (and learn how to get 30 days free) by visiting family.t-mobile.com.
Just a few of the other tips I learned at the event that can keep your family safe are:
1. Save important contact numbers into your child’s phone under “ICE” (In case of emergency) so others can reach you if your child is in trouble.
2. Keep current photos of your kids on your cell phone, updating each family member’s photo every six months.
3. Create a family contract that your child must obey when he gets his first cell phone. I actually did this years ago…even blogged about it (before I was a T-Mobile customer, FYI)! Click here to check out our contract.
4. Teach your kids to memorize family and emergency phone numbers in case they get separated from their phone. In fact, you should probably do the same. You don’t realize how attached we are to our phones until you have to use another phone to dial your parents’ number.
Technology can be great as long as we’re smart about it and use it as an assistant rather than the boss of our whole lives. (I just made that up. They can’t all be winners.) Check out more from T-Mobile at their website!
I have an ICE contact, but do need to update photos of all my peeps. My kids each have emergency contact numbers programmed in their phones too. This was a good reminder to keep emergency info updated.