It’s no mystery that the use of smartphones by teens has been on the rise; in the past few years, teenagers have become a very important target of the mobile market and a large part of the smartphone’s demographic. But that does not and should not hamper a parent's ability to regulate what and how far into cyberspace their kids are allowed to delve, even from the palm of their hand.
This is due, especially, to the new features smartphones increasingly carry; mobile phones are no longer used only to call, send SMS messages and snap some pictures; mobile phones are now real computers capable of running complicated software, providing access to the Internet and running a multitude of applications.
With the use of social networks rising exponentially as well, it’s normal that a teenager wishes to be connected 24/7; only smartphones can give them that freedom.
The rise of teen usage of smartphones is now becoming the subject of studies. Just recently, a report from the Pew Internet & American Life, a project on Teens and Technology 2013, has shown that more and more teenagers are finding their route to the Web through mobile devices.
It appears that teens, like adults, are turning away from traditional, “basic” cell phones and going with those that contain an operating system, run applications, have Internet connectivity and contain the latest in mobile technology—featuring either LTE or 3G/4G capability—not only to be able to talk on the phone or take pictures, but search for info online, send/receive texts and download music and videos, wherever they are and whenever they want.
With the majority of teens spending at least a couple of hours every day connecting to the Internet via mobile, parents’ concerns are rising as well. Surfing the Web was in fact much less convenient when the only connection could be made from a home computer.
A variety of types of safety software, as well as simple parental observation, were good enough measures to make sure younger teens did not fall pray of the many dangers lurking online. With smartphones, things are much different.
As the younger generation is practically obsesses with the mobile Web – an electronic portal in the basic form of a cellular telephone – the possibility of controlling Internet use at all times is greatly limited.
The first line of defense for parents is knowledge. Parents need to take the time, now more than ever, to understand new technologies and their capabilities. It would be a good idea to talk with their children about new applications and social sites, to have an idea of what usage their sons and daughters make of their smartphone.
If in doubt, there are ways to make smartphone-surfing more secure, with software much like the monitoring programs once used on home PCs.
The best tool for parents, however, is still talking and being honest with their children. Parents need to establish clear limits to browsing, messaging and social network use. Teens need to know that surfing the Internet with smartphones poses the same risks as regular PC Web surfing.
Risks include that of identity theft, becoming pray of sex predators, and releasing private information.
Topics of discussion need to include information on which types of data can be released online, what to do in case they’re contacted by strangers, as well as basic online cyber safety measures. Online sources are available and full of advice for the growing group of concerned parents, but as it is almost impossible nowadays to deny online social interaction, even to the youngest of connected kids, open communication channels seem to be always the best solution.
Edited by Braden Becker