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Kids and Cell Phone Safety. INFORMATION AND PREVENTION. August 2009. Training Objectives. Identify what things parents should consider before buying their child a cell phone. Identify risks associated with cell phone usage. Define Sexting and the risks associated with it.

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Kids and Cell Phone Safety

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kids and cell phone safety

Kids and Cell Phone Safety


August 2009

training objectives
Training Objectives
  • Identify what things parents should consider before buying their child a cell phone.
  • Identify risks associated with cell phone usage.
  • Define Sexting and the risks associated with it.
  • Recognize tips to prevent Sexting.
Identify safety tips associated with cell phone usage.
  • Recognize discussion tips parents should use with their children regarding cell phone usage.
cell phones and kids
Cell Phones and Kids
  • Many pre-teens and teens have access to cell phones. Parents often buy their children cell phones for safety reasons.
  • Cell phones do offer convenience and a sense of security for parents.
  • One such convenience is that parents can be alerted as to when they need to pick up their children from school events. Children can let parents know if the event is running behind or if they need to be picked up early.
While there are advantages to children having cell phones, there are also disadvantages.
  • The choice to buy a child a cell phone is a very personal issue for parents.
  • The pros and cons of cell phone usage need to both be weighed before parents decide to supply a cell phone to their child.
cell phone considerations
Cell Phone Considerations
  • Before a parent buys their child a cell phone, there are many issues to consider. According to a recent article from, one of these issues is cost. Many teens and pre-teens have damaged their cell phones, resulting in parents having to buy a second one. Other kids have excessively sent text messages, resulting in a cell phone bill that totals hundreds of dollars.
While parents want to know their children are safe in an emergency, hundreds of children on cell phones during an emergency can actually create problems for responders by overloading cell phone systems. Some kids have also gotten in trouble with their cell phones at school. Cell phones have been used to cheat, to spread rumors and to send inappropriate photos and videos at school.
According to National School Safety and Security Services, cell phones can detract from school safety and crisis preparedness in the following ways:

▪Cell phones have been used to call in bomb threats to schools. In many communities, these calls can not be traced by public safety officials.

▪Student use of cell phones could actually detonate a real bomb, if there was one on campus.

▪Cell phones systems typically overload during a major crisis (as they did during the Columbine school shooting and the attacks on 9-11). Usage by a large number of students at once could add to the overload and knock out cell phone systems quicker than could normally occur. Since cell phones are used as a backup communications tool for school administrators and crisis teams, widespread student use in a crisis could eliminate crisis team emergency communication tools in a very short period of critical time.
▪Cell phone use by students can hamper rumor control and can disrupt and delay effective public safety personnel response.

▪Students using cell phones can impede public safety response by accelerating parental response to an emergency scene. A large number of parents may be showing up, when officials are trying to evacuate students to another site.

Cell phones can also be used by sexual predators to groom a victim.
  • Many studies have been released pointing out that cell phones may have an effect on developing brains.
  • A child’s responsibility and maturity level also needs to be considered when parents are thinking of buying their child a cell phone.

(Wilson, Jacque. What to know before buying your kid a cell phone., August 11, 2008)

risks of cell phones
Risks of Cell Phones
  • While parents may think of cell phones as a safety tool, there are many risks to having one for kids.
  • One such risk is unwanted attention or communication. According to an article by Scholastic News Online, while texting can be a great way to stay in touch with friends, it can also be used by bullies.
Cyberbullying happens both on the internet, and through the use of cell phones. It involves children or adults sending threatening, rude or mean texts to another child’s cell phone. These texts may be sent directly to the victim or friends of the victim. If this happens, children should save the text and share it with their parents or another trusted adult. Forwarding the message or replying to it often traps a child into being a cyberbully themselves.
If a child receives a call, text or picture from someone they do not know, they should report it and not reply. Sexual predators use cell phones to entice children. Parents should teach their children never to meet someone in person, who they have met over the phone. Spammers and scam artists also use cell phones to deceive children.
Children who walk and talk on their cell phones are putting themselves in a dangerous situation. If they are on their cell phone while crossing the street and not paying attention, they are at risk for injury or death.
  • Likewise, teen drivers should not be calling on their cell phones or using them to text while driving. This has proven to be a dangerous situation that has resulted in the death of teens and their passengers.
what is sexting
What is Sexting?
  • Sending pictures from a cell phone may seem like fun, but it can have long-lasting ramifications.
  • A picture sent from a cell phone can easily be forwarded to hundreds of cell phones. It can also be easily downloaded on to the Internet and passed on.
  • These pictures can easily find their way on social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook.
Once a picture is sent, it can not be taken back.
  • The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy says one in five teenage girls between the ages of 13 and 16 years old say they have electronically sent or posted online, semi-nude or nude photos of themselves. It has also shown that 21 percent of teenage girls and 18 percent of teenage boys have sent images of themselves.
Sexting involves the sending of a sexual message and/or revealing photos to another person. Many girls have sent nude photos of themselves to their boyfriends. When they break up, the boyfriend has sent the picture to kids at school. In some extreme cases, girls have committed suicide in these situations. In other cases, prosecutors have begun charging teens who send and receive such images with child pornography and other serious felonies.
tips to prevent sexting
Tips to Prevent Sexting
  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Netsmartz offers the following tips to children and teens about sexting:

▪Kids should think about the consequences before taking, sending or forwarding a sexual picture of someone underage, even if it is a picture of themselves.

▪Consequences can include getting kicked off sports teams, facing humiliation, the loss of educational opportunities and getting in trouble with the law.

▪Kids should never take images of themselves they wouldn’t want everyone (their family, classmates, teachers, or employers) to see.

▪Before hitting send, kids should remember they can not control where the picture may travel. What is sent to a boyfriend or girlfriend could easily end up with their friends, and their friends, and more and more people.

▪Anyone who forwards a sexual picture of someone underage is as responsible for the image as the original sender. There could be possible child pornography charges, and the sender could go to jail. They would also have to register as a sex offender.

▪Kids should report any nude pictures they receive on their cell phone to a trusted adult. The message should not be deleted. Instead, parents, guardians, teachers, and school counselors should be involved immediately.
cell phone safety tips
Cell Phone Safety Tips
  • There are many things parents can teach their children to keep them safe while using cell phones.
  • While cell phones have proven to be useful, there are also safeguards that need to be put in place for the children and teens who use them.
Scholastic has developed a number of tips for parents to follow regarding cell phone safety. One such tip is for parents to teach their child how to use their phone by pointing out features like the key lock, how to put the phone on silent and setting the alarm. Phones should be programmed with parents’ contact information and emergency numbers. For extra security parents may consider buying a phone made specifically for kids. A few of these phones feature a GPS tracker and built in 9-1-1 button.
Parents should limit the usage their children have. They can designate time slots for talking, such as after homework is done. Parents should also check in to see if their children are up late, because they are using their cell phone.
  • Responsibility has to be taught and children should understand a cell phone is not a toy. This may be a good time for children to learn about budgeting, as there are many fees associated with a cell phone.
Parents should talk to their children about using caution when they give their phone number to others. Parents should advise their children not to publish their cell phone number on the internet.
  • Children should be taught not to answer their phone or text messages, when they do not recognize phone numbers. Parents will need to explain to their children how to block unwanted numbers.
Parents should also make sure their children know cell phone etiquette. For example, many hospitals, movie theatres and restaurants ask for cell phones to be turned off. Children should respect these rules. Most schools also have rules as to cell phone usage.
  • Some parents suggest having children hand over their cell phone, when they come home from school. They can use the phone at home to talk to friends.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), also has tips for parents to follow. One such tip is the monitoring of the cell phone bill. This can be used to keep track of the amount of time children spend talking and sending messages, and with whom. Parents should give special attention to numbers they do not recognize or have not approved.
Parents should teach their children to tell them if anyone sends them a threatening or frightening message. If children are being stalked, harassed, or threatened in any way, the incident should be reported to the service provider and local law enforcement. If the material is obscene, lewd or illegal, it should be reported to the Cybertipline at 1-800-843-5678 or
Parents should consider creating settings to control or prohibit access to the Internet, email and text messaging through a child’s wireless device. A GPS (global-positioning system) option may be offered by a service provider. This could help locate children, if they are missing.
tips for parents to discuss with children
Tips for Parents to Discuss with Children
  • According to NCMEC, the following are discussion points parents or guardians should have with their children:

▪Children and teens should never share their wireless number and personal or identifying information with anyone they do not know well. Likewise, friends’ numbers should not be given out.

▪Cell phones and other wireless devices should never be used to take, send or post pictures or videos of friends without permission from their parents or guardians. Taking or sharing an embarrassing picture of someone is a form of harassment and cyberbullying. Once an image has been sent, it can never be retrieved.
▪Children and teens should keep their passwords private. They should never be shared with anyone other than parents or guardians.

▪Photos of children and teens should never be given to anyone they do not know well and do not trust. Sexually provocative pictures or messages should never be sent.

▪Parents should remind children that text messages may be intercepted or used by others. Appropriate language should be used, while also not revealing personal information.
for more information
For More Information
  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,

  • National School Safety and Security Services,
missouri department of social services state technical assistance team

PO Box 208Jefferson City, MO 65102-0208

Telephone: (573) 751-5980(800) 487-1626(8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST, Monday – Friday)


Missouri Department of Social Services State Technical Assistance Team