Teaching Kids About Smartphone Safety

March 24th, 2014 by Comment button No Comments »

Dear Kids,

I can understand why you might be mad. No kid likes their parents going through their stuff, and that feeling just gets more intense the closer you get to being teenagers. If you were shocked when I pulled that surprise audit of your smartphones the other day, I can completely sympathize.

Actually, I don’t think I can. When I was your age, nobody had the free and easy access to electronics that today’s kids have. The most we had to worry about in our day was that Mom and Dad would read our diary, or find that stash of magazines we kept under the mattress. And we couldn’t get that stuff nearly as easily as you can today, much less carry it around in our pockets.

I myself am a technology guy, strongly tethered to my phone, so it seemed a little hypocritical of me to refuse your requests for one, especially when it lets us keep in touch with each other. You’ll remember I favoured the basic model – it was only by pure luck in that raffle that you ended up with the iPhone. But even "dumbphones" have their problems.

So, the audit. I hope I made it clear to you that its purpose wasn’t to get you in trouble. It’s just so easy for everyone (including grownups) to forget the dangers of a near constant Internet connection, we need to be regularly reminded of a few things…

1. There’s no such thing as "Delete". Snapchat selfies can be saved, disposable texts can be copied, and anything you post can be shared. And there are archive web engines that record everything they come across. So once something is out there, it’s very difficult and likely impossible to completely remove it. And it could all come back to haunt you someday.

2. The crazy stuff is only a click away. We grownups don’t like to draw your attention to that fact. But it’s just so accessible, even by accident through a simple spelling error in a web address, that you can easily wander into places where your young age makes you vulnerable. Not just from predators – you can be spied on or get computer viruses on these sites. And while it may be tempting to go see what you can see, just remember: once you’ve seen something disturbing or upsetting, you can’t un-see it.

3. Even if you’re being safe, you’re still in danger. This is the most frustrating thing of all, and it’s the biggest reason for the audit. Those seemingly-harmless little game apps you fill your phones with can sometimes be fronts for data theft. Some apps get permission from your phone to access your private photos, or your contact details, and who knows what they do with that stuff? And even the big Social Media sites like Facebook can change their privacy settings without warning – suddenly the stuff you thought was super-private is open for the world to see.

Look, I get it. Sharing is the new way of things, and all this auditing might seem paranoid to you. But the fact is, no generation before you has ever had the technology to communicate with the world like this. We just don’t know what staring into a tiny little glowing square all day is turning us into, or how all this communication will affect our lives as we all get older.

We’re still your parents, and we want whatever you’re turning into to have the best chances in life. So I completely understand why you’ll grumble when I ask to see your phones. But I’m still going to ask.

Love,
Dad

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About the author: David Raitt

David Raitt is a writer and lover of pop culture. He lives in Oakville. He has also worked as an actor for The Second City, and has written, produced and performed his own sketch comedy, including the Canadian Comedy Award-nominated ALL THE RAGE. Semi-retired from performing, he still teaches improv and communications skills to students and corporate groups through his association with The Second City. Check out Dave's website at http://davidraitt.com or on Twitter @3rdraitt.

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