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Top mobile phone tips for parents

Dean Stewart
TECH EXPERT:Dean Stewart is the chief executive of WebSafety NZ

Never before, have consumers been so connected to technology. Never before, has that technology infiltrated such a wide age spectrum. Welcome to the world of mobile technology. Within the next six months, mobile usage on devices such as iPads and tablets in NZ is set to triple.

Tablet and mobile phone makers are jostling for position in the marketplace, while retailers are starting a trend of making tablet devices not only more visible in store, but more attractive to a younger audience.

There is a growing trend for pre-schools to equip themselves with tablet devices for educational purposes with their under 5's.

We are seeing a growing upswing of the use of tablets in schools, and we predict that within the next five years they may be a compulsory item on the stationery list.

These devices have a huge impact on literacy and learning levels, and provide many benefits for special needs education. Statistics coming out of the US show that nearly half of first time mobile users are under the age of 5, and 7 out of 10 children are already using tablets.

But before we applaud the success of what these devices bring, there is much to be concerned about for parents. We have put together our Top Six Mobile Tips for Parents:

  • Install mobile filtering and monitoring software. There are several products on the market that provide different features and customisation levels. We recommend a free version from www.mobicip.com to start with
  • Know the sites your kids are going to that provide a chat facility. Some sites young ones play in may look safe, but some of these are not well moderated and can provide a haven for predators who pretend to be someone they are not.
  • Educate your teens on 'sexting'. Help them to understand the consequences of sending naked or semi naked photos to others. The risks of sexting are: 35 per cent of boys pass photos onto their friends;  amateur naked pics are increasingly ending up on porn sites; naked pics of someone under 16 is child pornography; sexting destroys reputations and leads to bullying.
  • Inform your children you may randomly check their messages on mobile devices to ensure they are not bullying, being bullied or sending sexual text messages in code. Using 'text speak' or acronyms is common, however, the meaning of each can easily be found using an internet search engine.
  • Ensure your children feel comfortable enough to tell you about anything they read, see or hear online that make them feel uncomfortable. If they are being bullied, don't respond to the sender. Print out or save the messages and inform the school. If it is related to criminal content, a scam or material intended to cause harm, report it to NetSafe through The Orb: www.theorb.org.nz
  • All new phones today are smart phones. They all have cameras, record voice and video and connect to the internet. Additionally, internet access is increasingly available for free throughout NZ in cafes and inner city shopping precincts.  Consider installing software to manage inbound and outbound calling, before giving them to young ones. Software is available and is not expensive.

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Dean Stewart is the chief executive of WebSafety NZ, a company that aims to help parents protect their children on the net. It offers remote services to install a selection of monitoring and filtering software.

- Essential Mums

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