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More children and teenagers are using cell phones than ever before. Though the intent and purpose of cell phones is often one by which parents hope they will have easy communication with their children, cell phones have proven to be a source of potential dangers. Bullying by SMS text messaging, sexting or sharing photos or sexually explicit messages by phone have created immense safety concerns and prompted legal action. Pedophiles and sex offenders are accessing children through text message and cell phones after making contact with unsuspecting teens in mobile social networking sites and chat rooms. Cell phones have their benefits, but they can be a gateway to danger as well. Parents must ensure that their children and teens are ready to handle the responsibility of a cell phone and should regularly monitor their children's activity to ensure they are using their cell phones in the safest manner possible.

Bullying by phone

Cell phones play an important role in cyberbullying. Today's phone models often have instant access to popular social media network sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Those sites, combined with text messaging, provide a bully with virtually limitless opportunities to harass and threaten a victim. States are still developing laws that pertain to cyberbullying and each state has their own measures in place. Children and teens should be taught that bullying in all forms morally and legally wrong. Children and teens that have engaged in any form of cyberbullying should lose access to cell phones. Though teens may feel that owning a cell phone is a right, it is a privilege and one that should be reserved for those that demonstrate they can handle the responsibility.

  • Cyberbullying: The government site, Girls Health, focuses on cyberbullying and the use of cell phones and social media networks sites in regards to bullying.
  • Bully Proofing my Child: Stop Bullying.gov shares way parents can help protect their children from bullies.
  • Taking a Stand against Bullying: The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development looks at signs a child may be a bullying victim.

Mobile social networking

Cell phones have enabled the easy use and access to mobile social networking sites. For those parents that have selected cell phone plans for their children and teens that do not include Internet access, beware. Many teens easily access these online sites and the parents pay the price for it later. Popular mobile social networking sites such as Facebook can be easily accessed by a mobile cell phone and new phones are including Facebook and Twitter apps from the phone's startup menu. Children and teens can chat, upload and download photos, create and share videos, and send e-mails from their cell phone. Mobile social networking has greatly increased the risk associated with children and cell phones.

Social Mapping

Social mapping is the process of using GPS based applications that can track a cell phone's positioning or location. Multiple applications perform these functions, which can have detrimental impacts on a child or teen's safety. Though GPS tracking has its positive benefits, such as the ability for law enforcement officers to locate a phone or victim, it can also reveal their whereabouts if the information is in the wrong hands. Social networking sites often reveal social mapping and location information and this too can be used by unscrupulous people, such as sexual predators, to determine a child or teen's location. Children and teens should be advised to keep their information private, including their whereabouts.

Media-Sharing by Phone

Cell phones allow users to share numerous forms of media including photos, videos, messages, and files. A growing danger involving the use of cell phones and teens is in regards to sexting. Sexting may involve a cell phone user sending sexually explicit messages by phone or even a photo of him or herself in a sexually suggestive or provocative manner. Teens and children must understand that sexting is illegal as it violates child pornography laws. There have been cases in which teen couples shared intimate photos with one another and then faced legal repercussions because the photos were deemed child pornography. One of the most prevalent tactics used by sexual predators involves posing as a child or teen, then trying to persuade a victim into sending sexually suggestive photos over the Internet. Children and teens must understand the dangers and consequences for sharing photos and videos with mobile networking sites or via email.

'Smart phones’

Today's cell phones are referred to as smart phones due to their capabilities. Cell phones are no longer for simply dialing a phone number and speaking to a person on the other line. Today's phones are capable of capturing photos and videos, accessing the Internet, transmitting data, playing games, music, and television shows, performing as a calculator, and much more. Siri, an Apple iPhone app that can answer questions when asked, is a virtual assistant and proof that smart phones continue to get more intelligent. Parents must be aware of the capabilities of their child's phone and not mistakenly believe that their child is using their phone solely for making phone calls.

Text Messaging Costs

Text messaging costs vary per provider and there are some plans which are unlimited. Unlimited plans may or may not have conditions that apply as well. When choosing a cell phone plan, be certain to read the fine print and determine how much text messaging will really cost. There are numerous accounts of parents that purchased a cell phone for a child with the condition the child would not text, only to find an astronomical cell phone bill months following. Determine the true costs of text messaging, even if you are not planning to add this to your child's plan. See if the carrier can block all text messages from being sent or received from your child's phone as well.

Parental Controls

Check with your cell phone carrier for any parental controls you may be able to activate. Sometimes blocking services is the simplest and most effective method, but there are other options available. There are applications that will send you an e-mail report of your child's cell phone activities. This includes a list of calls placed as well as text messages sent and received. Parents must ensure their child is ready for a cell phone before agreeing to purchase one. If a child shows they cannot handle the responsibility, do not hesitate to take the cell phone away.

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