Let me offer in this article their suggestions about how to choose wisely when purchasing a cell phone that your children will use and then in this article and in next week’s article their suggestions about an agreement you make with your child if he or she has the privilege of using the phone.
Protecting Your Family At The Time of Purchase: Here are questions that the National Coalition for The Protection of Children and Families’ article recommends you ask regarding the wireless provider’s “parental controls” and which will assist you in your evaluation of the product. Remember that “90 percent of young people’s first exposure to pornography on the Internet is unintentional; the second exposure rarely is” (Ibid.). Remember also that peers can be heavily influenced by pornography and they are inclined to talk about it (Ibid.).
1. “Internet Accessibility: Can this device be connected to the Internet? Can this connection be turned on and off, and if so, how? What is the additional cost of Internet access? How can I block connections to social networking websites such as MySpace, Facebook, Xanga, etc?”
2. “Internet Filtering/Monitoring: Are there appropriate parental controls to filter, block and/or monitor Internet access? If so, how can they be installed? How can I prevent these controls from being circumvented?”
3. “Forms of Communication: Can this device send and receive e-mails, text messages and instant messages? Can the device produce, receive and distribute pictures or video footage? Can this capability be turned on and off, and if so, how?”
4. “Usage Controls: “How can I limit the times of day and length of time the device can be used? How can I limit the contact list for both incoming and outgoing calls?”
5. “Sexually Explicit Content: Can the device be used to obtain sexually explicit content through a connection to the Internet, a memory stick, a connection to other wireless devices, e-mails or in any other manner? How can I disengage/monitor this capability?”
6. “Will you help me set up these parental controls and understand how to keep them effective in the future?”
Safe Use Agreement: “This model safe-use agreement between parents and children provides guidelines for discussion and a basis for developing specific understanding and agreement.”
“Because we agree my cell phone is a privilege I have earned, I will agree to the terms of its future use. I realize a cell phone has extensive capabilities for communication and even education. I also recognize it brings risks. You, as my parents, have trusted me with this device and I understand I need to use it responsibly so its use brings no harm to me, any member of our family or any of my friends.
“I agree to the following principles in the use of my cell phone and other wireless technology (i.e., laptop, iPod, PlayStation, Wii, etc):
(1) I will not share any personal information, including my date of birth, address, phone number or specifics about what school or church I attend. I recognize that sharing such information could lead to harm if it gets in the hands of someone who intends to hurt me. I fully recognize the threat this is to my safety.”
NOTE to readers: I will list the other seven terms of this agreement in next week’s “A Minute for Parents.” I saw too much value in the list to edit it.