by Alicia diVittorio, Mobile Safety Expert, Lookout
Whether we want to admit it or not, smartphones have become a constant presence in most of our lives. For kids in particular, phones are essential for keeping in touch with friends and family, and serve as an important lifeline in an emergency situation.
Having our lives so intertwined with these mini computers, however, means they end up holding a lot of personal information – emails, texts, contacts, photos – that can cause a real headache if put in the wrong hands.
We can’t always be there to shield our kids from all the dangers of the world, including those that come with our high-tech gadgets; but we can educate our kids and help them make the best decisions possible to stay safe! Here are six easy phone security tips you can teach your child to help keep them safe in the always connected, mobile world.
1. Set a passcode: Based on Lookout’s research, perusing the contents of a stolen phone is one of the things a thief will do after nabbing it. The last thing you want is a thief getting a hold of your child’s personal photos, texts, and emails. A passcode is your first line of defense against unwanted prying eyes.
2. Watch out for shady links. In the U.S., 4 in 10 smartphone users are likely to click on an unsafe link in a given year. Due to smaller screen size, clicking a shady link is much easier to do on a mobile device because it’s harder to decipher whether a website link is legitimate. Before giving your child their own smartphone, teach them to stick to websites that have a small image of a padlock in the browser (before the web address). This symbol indicates that a website is protected and safe for surfing. If your child is unsure about a link, make sure they know to ask a trusted adult before clicking. If you have a gut feeling that the link doesn’t seem legit, it probably isn’t!
3. Know Your Apps. Kids are always swapping information on the latest smartphone games, but some apps are bad and can hold spyware and malware that steal personal information. Make sure your child is only downloading apps from trustworthy sites, like the App Store or Google Play. For extra peace of mind, check an app’s ratings and browse through user reviews to ensure the app is widely respected.
4. Watch out for pickpockets: 1-in-10 smartphone owners fall victim to phone theft and 2 in 5 of these people have their phone stolen out of personal belongings like backpacks or messenger bags. If your child’s phone falls into the wrong hands, it puts all the personal information on their phone at risk. Remind your child to keep their school bag with them at all times and close zippers when going to and from class.
5. Think before you connect. While connected to public WiFi, teach your kid to limit email and social networking activity. Public WiFi networks are everywhere, but security for these networks is not. When making purchases or entering personal information on a device, make sure your kid knows to rely on a secure network rather than public WiFi to ensure that their private information stays private!
6. Download a “find my phone” app. On average, people in the U.S. lose their phones once a year; and we all know kids are notorious for losing things. To avoid having to replace an expensive smartphone, download an app like Lookout that allows you to locate your phone in real time and will “scream” when activated from a computer, even if the ringer is turned off. Lookout will also provide you with the last known location of the phone via email if the battery dies, giving you the best chance possible of finding it if it is lost away from home or stolen.
By taking even one of these precautions, your child’s phone and personal information is already more protected. With just a few easy steps and a little know-how, your child can safely navigate the mobile, online world.