5 Steps Parents Should Take When Passing Down a Smartphone

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Are you getting a new phone soon? Kids know that your phone upgrade means they get an upgrade, too, and they're often waiting eagerly with their hand out for your previous model. While you're distracted by your new phone's updated features, it's easy to give up the old model without giving the matter much thought. Don't hand off your old phone to your child or teenager without taking steps to protect your privacy and their safety first.

Set Ground Rules

Image via Flickr by Pabak Sarkar

A new phone offers the perfect opportunity to review the rules surrounding your kids' phone use. Even if you agreed on specific rules before they got their last phone, this is a chance to modify them according to your kids' age and behavior. New drivers will need new rules about texting or talking while behind the wheel, for instance, and children who are upgrading to their first smartphone might need guidance about downloading apps or sharing passwords with parents. It's a good idea to talk with tweens and teens about not sending inappropriate texts or photos. Also, decide what will happen if they go over their data limits. Once you've outlined a specific set of rules and consequences, make a contract with your child.

Don't Leave Safety to Chance

If your teen is a driver, ask your carrier if it offers an option that blocks texting while the phone is moving at road speeds. If not, consider a service like tXtBlocker, a paid service ($6.99/month) that can do the trick for you. Another option is to install something like DriveSafe.ly, a free service that reads text messages and emails aloud as they are received. Also, review some basic safety rules, like not giving away their whereabouts by checking in on social media, or at least limiting any check-in posts to a tight group of trusted family and friends.

Wipe It

What kind of data is hiding on your phone? Your apps might contain password information that would give your kids access to bank accounts or messages that aren't age-appropriate. Your browsing history is probably available on your phone, too. Even if you trust your kids completely, remember that they are more likely to lose the phone than an adult, which could cause your identity information or bank account to fall into the wrong hands. To be safe, find wiping information specific to your phone model, such as these instructions for resetting an iPhone 7, and do a complete hard reset on your phone.

Load It With Great Apps

Your kids will never be more agreeable to you adding tracking or safety features to their phone than while they're waiting with outstretched hands for their upgrade. This is the time to load the phone with whatever safety apps you want. Parental control apps let you filter the internet and social media. Tracking apps, often available through your carrier, will let you check on your kids' locations at any time. Safe driving apps are available so you can monitor the behavior of your teen behind the wheel. Other apps will let you monitor your kids' messages or online behavior.

Block Bad Apps

Teensafe has put together a list of apps that you should not allow on your child's phone for personal safety reasons. Some of these apps make kids more susceptible to bullying; others are used by predators to find victims. The list also includes apps that are considered risky, like Snapchat and Kik. Apps that are perfectly suitable for responsible teens, such as Tumblr, Whatsapp, and Vine, have no place in the pocket of a younger child. Only you can decide what is appropriate for your child's maturity level and personality.
Your teen might not be excited about going over rules and accepting safety and tracking apps, but the best time to establish your authority over the phone is before you've handed it over. Once they take possession, they'll quickly come to think of the phone as an extension of themselves, and they'll strongly resist anything they perceive as an invasion of their privacy or a rolling back of their autonomy.