The term smart phone refers to the gadget—not necessarily the user! We interviewed Detective Rich Wistocki, a veteran police investigator and parent educator, about problematic preteen phone habits.
PL: What should parents do before they give their preteens a smart phone?
Wistocki: Understand one thing: Apple handheld devices cannot be monitored. Only Android phones can be monitored. I would start off by not getting my [child] an iPhone, first and foremost.
Parents must speak often and honestly to their children about the usage expectations. Don’t forget, you are the parent! You own this phone. You have the right to monitor activity on it [and] ensure everyone is behaving as agreed to.
PL: What are some dumb mistakes make using their smart phones?
Wistocki: Sending photos and uploading them to Facebook and other sites. Cameras are so easy to use … there is no time to double-think the decision [to post]. Geotagging—a picture can contain an exact location, so when it is sent or posted online, kids are (sometimes unknowingly) posting exactly where they are through the geotags. [Parents should] turn geotags off in the phone’s settings.
PL: Free phone apps are tempting to download. Which ones are unwise for preteens to use?
Wistocki: Apps where kids connect freely with strangers are the most dangerous—apps like Taproom and Words With Friends. These are fantastic vehicles for predators to find, groom, and then prey upon unsuspecting victims. Kids know all about “not friending people you don’t know online,” but I am not sure this mindset has expanded to apps.
PL: How can parents monitor phone use?
Wistocki: Talk about it with the cell phone providers when [the phones are purchased] . They can illustrate safe settings and options. Check out outside monitoring companies like TrueCare. Kids are more tech savvy than their parents around all these new technologies. Parents need to rely on monitoring services, software, and controls to ensure everything is okay online.