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Mobile Phones Safety

Mobile Phones and Internet Safety

Much has been said lately about mobile phone safety, but most of this discussion has focused on the distraction that phones cause while driving.  However, another reason that parents should be concerned about mobile phones is their connection with online sexual exploitation of children, especially teenagers.

When a cell phone is placed in a child’s hands, the child is given access to the world and the world is given access to the child.  This includes when the child is away from home and away from parental supervision. What’s more, today’s cell phones are not just mobile telephones. They’re also Web browsers, instant messengers, e-mail terminals, cameras, and video recorders. In other words, just about everything you can do from an Internet-connected PC, you can also do from a cell phone.

Child predators are taking advantage of the easy access to children that mobile phones provide.  Parents must be aware that the Internet predator almost always takes the relationship with the child from the computer to a phone.  For example, in Internet predator investigations it is common practice to see mobile phones being used:

  • For constant communication with the child (day and night)
    • Text message the child throughout the day
    • Phone conversation throughout the night
    • Arrange face to face meeting with the child
  • As a “grooming tool” for sexual contact
    • Predator will engage in sexually explicit conversations
    • Predator will send images of pornography to the child
    • Predator will request that the child use the phone to create and share sexually explicit images of his/herself
    • Predator will suggest pornographic web sites that can be visited and viewed by phone
  • To identify the child and locate the child
    • The phone number itself can provide enough information to identify the child by name and address
    • Phone conversation verifies to the predator that he is communicating with an actual child (and not an adult or police officer)
    • Camera feature provides instant images of the child to the predator at his request

Mobile phones offer child predators instant and often unmonitored access to children.  And because phone conversation is more personal than online chat, less grooming time is needed.  Parents should carefully develop and implement safety strategies before providing their children with access to mobile phones.  A safety strategy might include:

  • Begin a dialogue with your kids about the rewards and risks of Internet use
  • Assess the risks and benefits of permitting your kids to have Internet access on their cell phones
  • Consider setting rules about the time of day, length of time, and people they may communicate with
  • Randomly check phone records and identify who your child regularly communicates with