Smart Phone Safety: Helping Your Teen Navigate a Digital World

If you have a teenager, chances are technology – particularly a cell phone – plays a major role in his or her life. Because smart phones are essentially mini computers, your teen has access to much more than just calling and texting. Help keep them safe by laying down a few ground rules together.

Set Boundaries
How strict you choose to be with your teen’s phone is completely your decision. Here are a few examples of how to set boundaries. Consider telling them:

  • No downloading apps or games without parent approval
  • To disconnect one hour before bed
  • That the phone is subject to random checks/monitoring
  • To report any harassing calls/texts/private messages directly to a parent
  • No sharing personal information, such as social security number, address or credit card information

Once you’ve set some boundaries, you may want to consider a technology agreement that both you and your teen sign together. Check out a few templates here.

Privacy Settings
Depending on the type of phone, privacy settings can vary. The intent is to keep your information safe. For example, Location Services is a feature under Privacy Settings. If turned on, someone with access to the phone can see everywhere your teen has been in the past month, down to the date, address and time. Location Services can determine an approximate location using GPS and Bluetooth technology, which is why many people turn it off so they can’t be tracked.

General Phone Safety
Here a few tips to keep personal information safe and secure:

  • Set a passcode (passcode is required to unlock the phone).
  • Add ICE contacts. ICE stands for In Case of Emergency. Even if a phone is locked, the ICE contacts can still be accessed and called.
  • Download the ICE app. First responders can use it to see emergency contacts, insurance information and medical conditions (such as allergies or diabetes).
  • Download free apps available for Apple and Android phones that make it easy to find a phone if it becomes lost or stolen.
  • If using the internet to log in to personal accounts (bank accounts, online shopping, social media, etc.), make sure to log out and completely close the browser when finished. Do not store passwords or ask the browser to remember passwords.

As a parent, the most important thing you can do is research – stay informed. Once you learn which apps your teen is using, try browsing free safety apps and ask your teen to download a few. Make it fun by acting out a situation and ask your teen to use the safety app the same way he or she would in a real-life situation.

Learn more about technology safety at This site offers articles, tips, guidance and reviews for parents who want to keep their families safe and productive online.

The Center for Family Safety and Healing provides free training sessions to teens, college students, parents and teachers about digital safety. Please complete the online training request form if you’re interested in learning more.

Karen Days, MBA
Karen S. Days is the president of The Center for Family Safety and Healing (TCFSH), which takes an integrated team approach to breaking the cycle of family violence and child abuse.Karen previously served as the president of the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence (CCAFV) since its founding in 1999 and was interim president of the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which was merged with CCAFV to create the new CFSH.Karen previously spent 10 years working in the criminal justice field. Currently, Ms. Days is serving as a board member of the Columbus Board of Health, Franklin County Community Based Correctional Facility, Ohio Domestic Violence Network, the Learning Circle Education Services, Advisory Board of the State Victims Assistance Act (SVAA), and Ohio Dominican University Board of Trustees. She also served on the Columbus Police Foundation Board, Mount Carmel Hospital Foundation Board of Directors, YWCA Columbus, YMCA Metropolitan General Board, and the Board of Trustees for the United Way of Central Ohio.She has received the “Women of Achievement Award” from the YWCA and the “Karama Community Leadership Award” from the Columbus Urban League. Karen earned a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology/Criminal Justice from The Ohio State University and an MBA from Ohio Dominican University.

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