I remember getting my first mobile phone – a super rad Ericsson flip with screw in antenna. It was red, minty fresh and pretty much the most awesome thing ever. Unwrapping it as my 18th birthday present I was instantly too cool for school. That phone is oh so comical when compared to the shiny smart phones that teenagers are sporting now. In line with the current hipster trend where ‘everything old is new again’, I take mild offence that my first phone is now considered ‘retro’ and pause talk back radio for long enough to shake my head in a disapproving manner. Kids these days…
Nonetheless, if your child or teen is privy to a mobile smarter than that of my 18-year-old self, it’s important to beef up the security on their phone for their safety (and your sanity.)
Have a backup plan
Before handing over an inevitably expensive piece of technology to your child, make a note of your International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number (generally found by pressing *#06# on the phone.) Take a screen shot and email it to yourself so if (or more likely – when) the phone gets lost or stolen you can contact your carrier to have the phone blocked from all Australian networks. While it might not get you your phone back, the handset will be useless to a thief and you’ll have the last laugh (or cry) as you fork out the cashola for a replacement.
Keep private things…well, private
Set a passcode on the phone that you both know, so that any information is protected if the phone falls into the wrong hands. While you’re at it, disable Bluetooth to avoid unwanted contact from nearby devices. Remind your child that ‘location based services’ not only lets people know where they are, but also where they’re not. Skipping school might have worked for Ferris Bueller, but he didn’t spend the day checking into places around town.
Save your wallet (and their pocket money)
If you’re concerned that the backyard ‘money tree’ is looking a bit sparse, contact your carrier to place a bar on international calls and texts. You might also wish to block ‘free’ ring tones, competition entries, and international roaming while you’re at it. Many cap plans don’t include calls to certain types of numbers, so consider a pre-paid SIM to avoid surprise bills, or one of our generous BYO mobile plans for iiNet or Westnet customers(shameless plug!).
Lay down the law
Consider some ground rules around their mobile phone curfew – the time your child will hand their phone in for the night. Aside from removing distractions during study time and sleep (and making you the meanest parent around), it will help protect them from cyber-bullying and unwanted contact. Embarrassingly remind your teenager that it’s easy for ‘that’ picture to be forwarded to third parties that may not have their best interests at heart. Encourage your kids to stop, re-read, and think before sending texts or pictures from their mobile phone.
Alternatively, I still have my Ericsson kicking around if you’re looking for a simple alternative to safety. Ten bucks? Five bucks. Go on…
If you’d like to read more on keeping your kids safe and secure while they’re out and about, check out the Online Safety Series fact sheet.