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Parental controls: Managing children's wireless usage

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Want to know what your kids are texting or purchasing with their cell phones?Many parents have come to the decision that their kids need access to wireless phones - for safety and peace of mind. Luckily, most carriers offer a variety of helpful features that give parents and caregivers a say in what their children see and do with their souped-up phones.

 

 

 

Parental controls and wireless phones

The use and accessibility of smartphones has skyrocketed in recent years, as more and more Americans now turn their wireless device to access the Internet. The ability to immediately access the Internet while on the go marks an important shift in the way we log on, and parents often worry that smartphones are just another way for their young ones to access inappropriate content, connect with strangers, and make unauthorized purchases—all while outside of the home. Luckily, most carriers offer a variety of helpful features that give parents and caregivers a say in what their children see and do with their souped-up phones.

Purchase blocker: prevents users from making purchases that are direct-billed to the account holder, such as ringtones, downloads, applications and games.

Content filters: Similar to blocking sites and services on your home computer, many wireless carriers offer content filtering features that help block access to mobile sites with mature content as well as filter out inappropriate sites from search results. Some carriers, such as Verizon, have created their own rating system of mobile content. Verizon offers three content settings: appropriate for ages seven and up, 13 and up, and 17 and up. These three setting are all easy to change and reset as your child grows and matures.

Usage restrictions: allow parents to set caps on the number of text messages or downloads allowed over a set period, as well as restrict when the phone can be used, who can be called or texted, and what kinds of content can be accessed online. Other restriction features include the ability to set a dollar limit on monthly downloadable purchases, selecting the amount of web browsing/data usage allowed per billing cycle, and creating lists of pre-approved “favorites” and blocked numbers for you child’s phone.

When your child begins to approach the monthly text, download, or talking limits, companies like AT&T will send an advance warning. Once a limit is reached, there will be a notification that the action is restricted and that the service will be stopped until the start of the next usage period. Depending on your wireless carrier, some of these features may cost a small monthly fee.

Family location services: Worried about where your kids are? Almost all major wireless carriers provide a tracking service that lets you know where your family members are. Using your phone or home computer to log on, you can set up certain boundaries for where you expect your child will be. When they move outside the arranged area with their phone, you can receive text or email alerts. You can also receive daily notifications at set times, assuring you that your child arrived home safely after school or other activities. All carries charge an extra monthly fee for this tracking service.

To find more about what options are available on your plan and carrier, contact your wireless service provider directly. For more general information on wireless parental controls, visit the Online Mom.

From phones to TV and computers, make sure your young ones understand that parental controls are not about punishment—they're about safety. Talk to them about the importance of using the web responsibly instead of simply implementing tough restrictions. Teaching your kids about online safety can be a great opportunity to discuss good decision-making and time management skills. The Internet is an incredible tool that offers an amazing wealth of information and ideas. Go explore!