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Drew: Is Your Child’s Cell Phone Safe?

By Samuetta Hill Drew

Keeping your child safe is a top responsibility and desire for parents. After being an educator for numerous years I never experienced a parent, regardless of income, race, religion or ethnic background, who didn’t want their child to be safe. Yes, I’ve encountered some whose hands-off approach to parenting was questionable, but they still wanted their child to be safe.
This parental task was less complex decades ago. Your child’s whereabouts were easier to track, as well as who they talked to and hung out with. With the onset of technology, this responsibility and desire has become far more difficult, but not impossible.
A majority of children from elementary through high school and college have their own personal cell phones. Cell phones have become almost a necessity in today’s society where information and people are only a few minor touches away. Even though time has indeed made this parental task far more difficult, its importance remains the same.
So how does one ensure your child’s cell phone is safe and why is it essential to do so? It is vital as a parent you know who your child is communicating with and vice-versa. You may not need to know word for word their conversation, but you do need to know who’s communicating with your child.
Another reason it’s essential is to protect your child from sexual predators. These adult criminals target children through private messaging apps. They disguise themselves as being younger and attractive. Messaging leads to phone calls which eventually results in a private meeting. Unfortunately, the news is full of these types of stories.
One such messaging app, which is now under federal review and has been banned in some other countries, is called TikTok. It was brought to my attention by a close family member who monitors their middle school daughter’s cell phone apps.
Common Sense Media says that TikTok is an interactive world of videos that allows the user to connect with friends and admirers through likes, comments and even duets. The users can create and record videos of themselves lip-synching to popular music, singing, dancing or just talking. It was originally called musical.ly (pronounced MU-zik-lee).
In 2019, TikTok paid millions to settle with federal regulators who charged it violated our children’s privacy law. There are others as well, which may need to be monitored and/or deleted from your child’s phone. Note, it does have an age recommendation but many children who don’t meet this age recommendation are apparently using it.
Lastly, another reason is to protect your child from cyberbullying. According to NoBullying, 52 percent of today’s children have reported they’ve been cyberbullied and 20 percent of them get bullied on a regular basis.
As a parent, what is the answer to Keeping an Eye on Your Child’s Cell Phone Safety? Some parents have researched apps that can be downloaded on their own cell phones to help them monitor their child’s phone usage. These spy apps allow you to see your child’s incoming and outgoing calls, the duration of the phone calls and who the number belongs to (only if it’s in the cell phone contact information). Research your options and decide what works best for you and your child. After all, your child’s safety is worth it!

This column was originally published Nov. 20, 2019