Cell Phone Smarts: Protect Yourself!

By: Anne Collier

Cellphones are increasingly full-blown handheld computers, and everything that can be done on the Web via computer – photo-sharing, Web browsing, game playing, tune-swapping, real-time text or video chat, and (oh yeah) talking – can be done on a phone. Here are some basic ideas for keeping mobile phone use safe and constructive:

Share with care. Use the same good sense about what you post from your phone as from a computer. Once they’re posted, text, photos, and video are tough to take back, can be copied and pasted elsewhere, and are up there pretty much forever. Think about the people in them (including you!). Reputations are at stake.

Phones are personal. Letting other people use your phone when you’re not around is like letting them have the password to your social network profile. They can impersonate you, which gives them the power to mess with your reputation and relationships. Lock your phone when you’re not using it, and use strong and unique passwords for all your apps.

Keep it kind. Because people socialize on cellphones as much as online, cyberbullying can be mobile too. Treat people on phones and the Web the way you would in person, and the risk of being bullied goes down. Be aware, too, of people randomly taking pictures at parties, in locker rooms, etc. – you may not want to be tagged in their social-network photo albums!

Sexting: You should not don’t take, send, or post or even store nude photos of yourself or your peers on your phone. Doing so means you can be charged with production, distribution, or possession of child pornography, a serious crime. You can also be subjected to jokes, bullying, blackmail, expulsion from school, and the images can circulate forever. Just don’t go there!

The value of presence. If you do a lot of texting, consider the impact that being “elsewhere” might be having on the people around you. Your presence during meals, at parties, in the car, etc. is not only polite, it’s a sign of respect and appreciated.

Know what your apps know. Pay attention to any permissions apps request as you install them. If an app asks to access your location, contact list, calendar or messages or to post to your social networking services, consider if the app really needs that information to function. When in doubt, consider withholding permission or not using that app.

Down time is good. Constant texting and talking can affect sleep, concentration, school, and other things that deserve your thought and focus. You need your sleep, and real friends understand there are times you just need to turn off the phone.

Share location mindfully. A growing number of apps allow friends to pinpoint each other’s physical location. If you use such a service, do so only with friends you know in person, and get to know the service’s privacy features.

No texting while driving! Research shows that texting while driving can significantly increase the risk of a crash or near-crash situation. Silence your phone in the car, pull over if you need to use it, and of course follow your state’s hands-free laws for mobile phones in cars.

Anne Collier

Anne Collier, M.A., is president of the nonprofit organization Net Family News Inc., which she founded in 1999. Now in the process of developing the US’s first social media helpline for schools, she co-directed ConnectSafely.org from early 2006 until March 2015. She blogs at NetFamilyNews.org (“kid-tech intelligence for parents”). Anne has served on three national task Continue Reading...