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Thinking of buying your child their first smartphone?

Smartphone Safety Hub

Posted on November 29, 2017

4 min read

As parents, we’ve all been on the receiving end of our kids’ Christmas present pleas. Aged 12, I begged my mum and dad for Mork and Mindy dolls.

Skip a generation and my tweenie daughter is pledging an eternity of angelic behaviour if she could just possibly please have her own smartphone. The one which you can unlock with your face, obviously…

For almost half of Aussie kids, smartphones are top of the pressie wish list this year – and it’s looking like many parents will be responding to those requests, according to new Telstra research.

But the decision to purchase a child a smartphone comes with great consideration. What we found is that safety, both online and offline, is front of mind for most parents.

For almost two thirds of parents, the main reason for giving their child a smartphone was to keep them safe when they were out of the home. What’s more, close to half of parents acknowledged that this open line of communication can reassure mums or dads (I can vouch for that!)

But we also found that mums and dads are understandably wary about smartphone safety and balanced usage. Parents’ top smartphone concern was that their child would spend too much time on their device, followed by breakage woes and excess data usage, and online safety worries.

Most importantly, almost nine in 10 parents said they would like more information about how to introduce a smartphone into their kids pocket safely.

Enter the Telstra Foundation’s new Smartphone Safety Hub. We’ve put together this portal to provide parents with tips, tools and advice to help get a handle on digital safety and ways to instil healthy device habits too.

You’ll find articles and insight on how to use smartphone security features like parental controls and a special Christmas First Smartphone Agreement, which allows parents and kids to set ground rules together.

As a mum of a teenager and tweenager, the “debut device” dilemma is one I’ve faced twice over. How do you decide when to bring a smartphone into your child’s life?

Although 12 is currently the most common age for parents to give their child their first smartphone, the truth is there is no ‘right’ age for a smartphone or ‘magic number’ – if a child demonstrates the responsibility needed to have their own device – they may be ready. And for every age, the way a child uses the device is different, as is the level to which parents are involved in monitoring content and devices.

Smartphones are introducing a new language for the modern family, especially families with older teenagers. Our smartphone research delved into the impact smartphones and technology were having on family dynamics.

I get ‘TTYL mum’ (talk to you later) and ‘BRB’ (be right back), but smartphones are also creating new ways for families to communicate and connect. What we’re starting to see the emergence of the ‘connected family’ and ‘connected independence’ for young people. Two-thirds of parents said the main benefit for children owning a smartphone was to give them greater independence – while staying connected with family.

About two thirds of parents told us they now communicate with their kids at least once a day via a smartphone – with text messages the most popular way of connecting, followed by calls and chat-apps – and 18 per cent said their child had used a smartphone to tell them something they couldn’t say face to face.

There is no doubt technology opens endless opportunities of communication, engagement and education – but when it comes to kids and technology, safety has to be first conversation we have.

Every child and every family is different. And there’s no right way to bring a smartphone into the family, we hope the tips and tools on this Smartphone Safety Hub make it easier for every member of your family to take this journey with confidence.

Tags: cyber safety,

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The guide to eParenting

Smartphone Safety Hub

Posted on November 24, 2017

4 min read

For many of us, the digital age has brought a new dimension to the parent-child dynamic.

Telstra research has found that two thirds of us now use our smartphones to stay in regular contact with our kids. More than 58 per cent of parents believe smartphones have made it easier to connect with their family than when they were a child. And 18 per cent say our kids have even told us something via text that they felt they couldn’t tell us face-to-face.

And while technology is giving us even more ways to come together as a family, it’s only natural for us, as parents, to think about how we can help our tweens and teens confidently navigate all of the complexities that come with this limitless connection.

The vast majority of us would acknowledge that digital literacy is a huge part of our kids’ lives. However nine in 10 (87%) of parents would like more information about how introduce a smartphone into their kids pocket safely.So, here are a few pointers to get you started.

Do some eLearning

If your house is anything like mine, it’ll be the kids showing you how to get a handle on technology. But it’s important to do some research beyond your kids’ teachings. Familiarise yourself with your child’s favourite sites or apps and take the time to understand how they work. This not only means you can more confidently chat to them about their online activities, but it also give you some insight into how they might be interacting with other people. Does it let them connect with strangers? Is it a photo sharing platform? Does it publicise personal information? Knowing these details will help you to work together to put measures in place that keep your child safe and thriving online. Learn more.

Take the parental controls

The internet is able to answer almost every question we could possibly come up with, which means it’s also home to a lot of content that might not be appropriate for your child to read or watch. Look into the parental controls you can use to filter the things you’d rather they weren’t privy to and set ground rules about the kind of sites that are and aren’t acceptable to visit. Learn more.

Encourage self-awareness

Kids have grown up in a world where communication happens instantaneously and around the clock, which means they might not think all too hard about the long-term impact of their online activity. The fact is though, employers, future partners, grandparents – anyone – can easily do a quick internet search to have a look at what your child’s been saying online. And they can go right back to your child’s debut post. Make sure kids sense check all of their online behaviour by asking themselves ‘would I want Mum or Dad to see that?’. Learn more.

Instil strong morals

You hear about it a lot with adults; people who are perfectly nice in person becoming acid tongued when they’re hiding behind a keyboard and a screen. And kids can easily fall into the same trap, with cyberbullying a very real issue for today’s digital natives. It sounds obvious, but really drive home how important it is for your child to act as respectfully online as they would in real life. And if they find themselves on the receiving end of nasty or hurtful actions, give them the confidence to stand up and speak out so you can tackle the issue together. Learn more.

Be a good role model

It’s usually kids who get a bad rep for being glued to their screens, but adults are guilty of it too. Remember that your child is likely to imitate your own digital habits. So, if you’re constantly distracted by your phone at the dinner table or struggle to hold a conversation without checking your social media feeds, now’s the time to unplug. Learn more.

Find out more at our Smartphone Safety Hub

Tags: cyber safety,

Be careful out there

One starry, starry night…

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Getting up close with personal information

Smartphone Safety Hub

Posted on November 24, 2017

4 min read

As a parent of two tech-savvy children – one in their teens and one in their tweens – I’m lucky to live with the knowledge that my kids are careful with their personal information online. For some parents, this can be a major source of worry.

While the majority of young people are pretty clued up about keeping their personal information secure, reports show some children as young as eight are sharing personal details, like their surname, home address and phone number, on open social media accounts. This is despite most social media channels putting measures in place to restrict access to users aged 13 and over.

When I first let my kids have their own smartphones, teaching them to be smart and safe online was at the front of my mind. And I know I’m not alone. We know that we should be talking to our children about online safety, but we don’t always know how – or what advice we should be giving to our savvy digital natives.

Here are some of the ways I help my kids protect their personal information online and on their devices.

A private conversation

I have regular conversations with my children about exactly what personal information is and the importance of keeping it private. The majority of kids are likely to be aware that sharing things like their passwords and bank details online isn’t a good idea, but do they realise the implications of publicly sharing more innocuous details, like their current location or school name? By working together with my kids, we keep their personal details limited to family and friends only.

Lock it down

These days, smart devices come with plenty of security features, like passcodes and automatic locking timers, so they’re protected even while they’re switched on. To tell the truth, it’s often my kids showing me how these features work, rather than the other way around! But it’s still important for children and their parents to know all about the protections built into their devices, including biometric scanning (such as fingerprints or even facial recognition) for next level security. It’s worth teaching kids from a young age not to share passwords with others or across different sites and accounts. You could look together at setting up a password vault, and get them in the habit of using passphrases so they’re hard to guess but easy to remember.

Double up defence

All the devices in our family have two-factor authentication set up for an extra layer of security. That means if someone tries to access my kids’ private channels – like their email account or app store – from an unrecognised source, a notification or passcode will be sent to their phone number to help them control unwanted access.

Check updates available

Device and online security settings are constantly being updated to keep personal information as secure as possible. As a family, we set aside some time every few months to review our privacy settings and see if there are any new developments we can take advantage of to stay better protected.

Outsmart the scammers

If something sounds too good to be true, it almost definitely is. This has become a bit of a mantra in our household, especially when it comes to online security. I make an effort to remind my children that any emails, posts, texts or tweets promising the world probably shouldn’t be trusted. Communication containing suspicious links, or unknown senders, shouldn’t be clicked on. Instead, they should delete it immediately.

I also discourage my kids from visiting or downloading from unsecured sites or untrusted sources, where spyware (tracking software installed on a computer without the owner’s knowledge) and viruses could be embedded into the content.

Find out more at our Smartphone Safety Hub

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Tags: cyber safety,

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Content with the content? How to protect kids from inappropriate material online

Smartphone Safety Hub

Posted on November 24, 2017

4 min read

Babies’ milestone moments used to be learning to walk or talk. Now it’s leaning towards how fast they can get to grips with a smart device. Reports now show kids as young as six-months are getting their first formative touch of tablets and smartphones.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not lamenting the arrival of the digital age. The internet, along with all the amazing apps out there, are incredible tools for learning, socialising and creating – for all ages.

But it’s a harsh reality that they also open the door to a realm of content that some of us parents may, understandably, feel that we don’t want our kids exposed to. In fact, for many parents, inappropriate material is the main worry when it comes to giving kids access to their own smartphone. So just how can you reduce the risk of your youngster stumbling upon content they shouldn’t?

Have the content conversation

Chat with your child about how to avoid accidentally bringing up adult content. You know, the email links offering a free trip to Bali. The social media posts that just need one quick click through to share Ryan Gosling’s ACTUAL phone number with you… Remember that things we might (rightly) be cynical about might not seem quite so suspect to an innocent eye.

Take control

Like most parents, I trust my kids to behave responsibly online, but still want the peace of mind that they’re not drawn into doing anything untoward. Which is where parental controls come in. You’ll probably be surprised by how many safeguards you can put in place across web browsers, search engines, social media platforms and so on nowadays. You can stop apps from being downloaded, filter certain search terms and, in some instances, even restrict things like photos from being shared. All of which helps make the digital world a safer space for your kid to play in.

Telstra Broadband Protect and Telstra Mobile Protect are great additional tools to make your family’s online experience safer, wherever they’re surfing, too.

Stream on safely

Pre-internet era, 10-year-olds wanting to watch a MA15-rated movie would have to resign themselves to begging their parents to rent it from the store on their behalf or going to great lengths to sneak into the screen at the movie theatre. But with on-demand streaming now opening up a whole world of entertainment for our kids, this kind of material is just a click away. Know though that parental controls are also available on subscription streaming sites, like Netflix and Stan. You can set the appropriate maturity level for individual profiles, along with a four-digit PIN that your child will need to enter if they’re trying to watch a movie or show with a higher age rating.

Stay involved

But not in an overbearing, standing-over-their-shoulder kind of way. Encourage kids to use their devices in communal areas of the home, so that if they do come across something they weren’t looking for, they can let an adult know straight away. It’s also important to make it clear that they won’t be ‘grounded’ from using the internet if they do tell you about accidentally coming across inappropriate content.

Get the support you need

If your child has seen something online that has upset or confused them, don’t hold back on getting in touch with some free, confidential counselling services. headspace.org.au (for 12-25-year-olds), and reachout.com (for 14-25-year-olds) are great go-tos.

Report rogue content

Would you want any other child seeing the material? If the answer’s no, report it ASAP to the site administrator. If that doesn’t do the trick and you find that the content is still live, report it via the ‘Complaints and reporting’ section at esafety.gov.au.

Find out more at our Smartphone Safety Hub

 

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How can kids keep their digital footprint clean?

Smartphone Safety Hub

Posted on November 24, 2017

4 min read

It’s the norm today for kids (and many big kids) to upload their every move – from the mundane to the momentous – to online platforms. It’s certainly no different for my children, who are always excited to share their latest news with friends and family online.

But while it takes just a few seconds to post something on social media, the impact of that post can last much longer. The fact is, once information makes its way online, it can be easily shared around and tricky to remove.

That’s why I always remind my kids that it’s so important our online actions are positive and reflect who we are in the ‘real world’. The last thing I want is for their future opportunities in work and life to be affected by something they posted online when they were young.

Here are just a few ways I help my children create a digital presence to be proud of, so that how they act online today doesn’t come back to bite them later in life.

Keep things confidential

According to research, children aged eight to 13 ­– like my youngest child – have an average of two active social media accounts each, while 13-to-17-year-olds have an average of three. Yet only 61 per cent of young social media users have a completely private profile.

By encouraging my kids to activate their privacy settings, I help them prevent their content being shared without their say-so, and only with people they know and trust.

Pause before posting

Young people – my kids included – are often in a rush to post a photo or comment on their social media feeds. I can understand their urgency – these days, there’s a badge of honour to be gained by posting ‘first’ about an event or happening. Unfortunately, it means young internet users don’t always stop and think before they post something online.

One way I encourage my children to pause before posting is by asking themselves whether it’s something they’d be happy to be associated with two months or even 10 years down the line. Would they feel comfortable if one of their teachers were to see the post, or even if I came across it? If the answer’s no, it’s probably best not to hit the button. Because even if they’re posting privately, there’s always that chance content might make its way into the public sphere.

Choose your words carefully

Social media and online forums are great outlets for self-expression, and while most users behave respectfully towards one another, your child is likely to witness poor online behaviour. About 45 per cent of young people say the main downside of social media is being exposed to nasty comments, and it’s something my kids have mentioned to me as well.

Like all responsible parents, I’ve raised my kids to treat others as they would want to be treated, so it’s just a case of reminding them that this applies when they’re socialising online too.

Do a digital sweep

I’ve got my children into the habit of checking their digital footprints on a regular basis. One way to do this is to sit down together and type their name into a search engine to see what results come up. If there are images or posts that neither of us are happy with, we can delete the content or politely ask the person who posted it to remove it.

Find out more at our Smartphone Safety Hub

More cyber security articles for parents:

Tags: cyber safety,

Be careful out there

One starry, starry night…

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