As more kids are getting cellphones from their parents at what used to be considered an early age,about the possible dangers of the devices. One in three Americans say they’ve fallen for a phone scam, and kids can be especially vulnerable, according to Truecaller.
Chicago’s Peterson Elementary School recently hosted a workshop for parents about cellphone safety for children. It was hosted by digital media analyst Devorah Heitner, the author of “Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in their Digital World.” Heitner says parents should teach kids that anything that sounds too good to be true probably is and that their parents will support them no matter what.
“Anyone who is trying to exploit your child sexually, emotionally, financially, they will use threats to isolate them and scare them,” she said. “If your child knows they have a safe person in you and that you will fight for them and be on their side, they’re much less vulnerable.”
Lynda Gibson, whose 13-year-old daughter has a phone, attended one of Heitner’s workshops. Gibson said her biggest concern was that “Kids aren’t always able to distinguish what’s real and what’s reliable.”
Craighton Berman, whose 12-year-old son just got a phone, said his son likes to use the messaging and social media platform Discord.
“It’s fairly anonymous,” Berman said. “We talk about it a lot, but that is one that makes me kind of nervous.”
Heitner suggests removing phones at bedtime, using parental controls to limit screen time and apps, researching apps your kids want to use, not allowing headphones during games where your child can chat and modeling good behavior.
“Ultimately, I believe that mentoring is more powerful than monitoring,” Heitner said. “We want to teach them how to do the right thing.”
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