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TMCNet:  Tulsa World, Okla., Action Line column

[January 01, 2013]

Tulsa World, Okla., Action Line column

Jan 01, 2013 (Tulsa World - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Dear Action Line: My 14-year-old son got a smartphone for Christmas and I'm not sure he's wise enough to be trusted alone with it. Any guidance on this -- S.P., Tulsa.


He was probably already home alone with it between Christmas and New Year's Day and we hope you have limited his access to it. Fortalice LLC, at tulsaworld.com/Fortalice, a technology consulting firm of cybercrime fighters who watch over governments, businesses and consumers, protecting them from Internet predators, warns that most people don't know the risks of smartphones, tablets and PCs. This includes access to inappropriate websites, downloading malicious apps and social networking dangers.

Fortalice founder Theresa Payton, chief information officer in the Bush administration (2008-2010), offers three tips to ensure a positive and age-appropriate first experience with the Internet and devices that can access it.

Right phone: Get the right phone and data plan. Of all the wondrous things cellphones can do, talking is the feature your child is probably least interested in. Not all kids have the maturity to handle texting, voice mail, Internet access and taking photos and videos. Truly and honestly assess your son's readiness as you might find a simple phone, with bare-bones features and a modest data plan, makes more sense than a flashy smartphone with all the latest apps. You can always upgrade the phone as he matures. Also, if you do opt for a smartphone, assess whether or not you want its GPS capabilities activated.

Its ability to instantly display his exact location could compromise his physical safety.

Set rules: Establish clear ground rules. Mom and dad buy the cellphone and when it's misused, mom and dad take it away. Decide what's right for your family, including these non-negotiables: Enforce a digital curfew when phones, tablets and other electronics are strictly off-limits; and enforce no digital zones -- no phones at the dinner table, in the classroom or in the bedroom.

Phone ethics: Take a stay-true-to-your-values pledge. Remind him having a cellphone doesn't change who he is or who you are. Mean texts are as off-limits as cruel talk.

Ditto on uploading sexual, disrespectful or violent Internet content or forwarding inappropriate photos or hurtful messages from friends. For older teens, ensure there's no wiggle room: texting and driving is never OK.

Monitor use: Consider a monitoring tool. Make it easy to safeguard his privacy and reputation by signing up for a system such as SocialScout, at tulsaworld.com/SocialScout SocialScout provides parents with daily reports online and by email to ensure their child is making good online and mobile choices.

Federal law: Also see the Federal Trade Commission's "Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule," at tulsaworld.com/FTCKidsSafeOnline The agency adopted final amendments to the rule strengthening kids' privacy protections and giving parents greater control over the personal information websites and online services can collect from children under 13.

Submit Action Line questions by calling 918-699-8888, emailing phil.mulkins@tulsaworld.com or mailing them to Tulsa World Action Line, P.O. Box 1770, Tulsa, OK 74102-1770.

___ (c)2013 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) Visit Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.) at www.tulsaworld.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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