Back to School with New Devices? Lesson #1: Mobile Safety

Posted by Jacqueline Beauchere
Director, Trustworthy Computing Communications, Microsoft

Unlike their parents who went back to school with new notebooks, pens, pencils, and binders, today’s young people are likely readying for the coming academic year with laptops, tablets and mobile phones. But, before parents arm kids with the latest Internet-enabled devices, it’s a good idea to share some do’s and don’ts about online safety.

Whether it’s a new laptop for research and writing, a tablet for reading, or a mobile phone to get in touch with mom or dad in the event of an emergency, kids are using mobile technology more than ever. Data show that 52 percent of kids ages eight to 12, and 77 percent between 12 and 17, own mobile phones, with teenagers 14 to 17 sending an average of 100 text messages a day.

When it comes to Internet safety, some practical advice can go a long way toward helping kids stay safer and more secure when they’re online on the go. The first step is to set clear use limits for kids on their mobile phones. According to one survey, 90 percent of eight to 17 year-olds say it’s OK for parents to set rules about mobile phone use. Based on the age and maturity level of each child, parents and kids should together agree on: (1) the specific features that will be enabled on the child’s phone; (2) clear rules for responsible and appropriate use of the device, and (3) the consequences for any violation of those rules. Parents should make it clear that bullying, sexting and, for older kids, using the phone while driving, are never acceptable.

In addition, kids need to know to share their phone numbers (and other personal identifiable information) with family and close friends only. Further, they should:

· Lock their phones with a PIN, or personal identification number, and keep it secret – even from “best” friends, who, among the younger generations, can change quite often.

· Avoid clicking links in advertisements, contests, text messages and the like. Doing so can invite malware that could damage the phone, lead to the sale of their information or even identity theft.

· And, if parents use a family location service to monitor their children’s whereabouts, make sure those outside the immediate family can’t locate them. Otherwise, consider disabling the location feature on the child’s phone or, at the very least, turn off the feature in the phone’s camera.

For other tips and guidance on becoming a good “digital citizen” at home, on the go and at school, consult Microsoft’s Digital Citizenship in Action Toolkit, and regularly visit our Safety & Security Center. “Like” our page on Facebook and, if you’re an educator, be on the lookout for the launch of our upcoming Internet safety challenge. We’re committed to ushering in the new school year by helping students, teachers, parents and caregivers create a safer and more trusted online experience for themselves and each other.