Mobile devices (Family Safety)
Demand for access to the Internet is spurring the creation of more mobile devices at exponential rates. Cell phones, digital music players, and laptops are all becoming Internet aware, allowing us full access to the myriad of information available on the Internet anytime, anywhere. Handheld devices with the ability to access the Internet is growing steadily.
There are many uplifting uses for mobile Internet access. Having a device that can connect to the Internet at any time means that one has constant access to the many Church Websites, including the Mormon Channel, online scriptures, and others.
Mobile devices also allow for instant communication. When President Hinckley passed away, the youth of the Church used text messaging via mobile devices to spread the word, and to encourage each other to wear Sunday best clothing to school the following day.
There are some very dangerous trends associated with mobile device use today. Some of the things to be aware of are the following:
- Web access: According to a Harris Interactive study, 1 in 3 teens were regularly browsing the web on the cell phones in 2008. Often, the parents are not aware that the cell phone has this ability, and thus are not aware that their children are using their mobile device in this way. One of the main concerns here is that filtering technology has not caught up to the mobile craze yet, and there are very few methods for filtering web content on mobile devices. This means that pornography is more available on mobile devices than on home computers that may be protected.
- Texting while Driving: The University of Utah recently completed a study which indicated that texting while driving is equivalent to driving while intoxicated at twice the legal limit in the state of Utah. The study indicated that you are 6 times more likely to be involved in an accident if you are texting while driving.
ZeroFatalities.org has produced a moving video about the dangers of texting while driving, which tells the story of Reggie Shaw, who was texting on his way to work one day and ended up causing an accident that took two lives.
- Sexting: A disturbing new trend among youth involves taking and sending inappopriate images via their mobile device. The fact that the personal contact is removed, and our children are interacting with a device rather than a person causes them to do and say things that they would never normally have the courage or audacity to do or say in person. Very young children are getting involved in sexting, and in the process are unwittingly creating and distributing child pornography.
Advice from Church leaders
Elder Dallin H. Oaks: "Sacrament meeting is not a time for whispered conversations on cell phones or for texting"
Tips & suggestions
- Learn the texting lingo so you can understand their text messages when you see them. NetLingo has a great listing of Acronyms and shorthand used when texting and chatting.
- Make use of your carrier's parental controls. Here are some links to some of the popular carriers parental controls documentation:
- Router Limits Parental controls for iOS, Android, and home networks
- Mobicip Web Access Control, Compatible with some mobile devices.
Tips for keeping cell phones as safe as possible:
- Consider how old your child should be before letting him or her have a cell phone.
- Disable all forms of Internet on phones. Call your provider to ensure that all Internet access is disabled.
- Disable MMS (Multimedia Messaging services).
- Regularly check SMS (Short Message Service) text messages being sent. Like signing notes in yearbooks, kids say things in text messages they may not otherwise dare say in person.
- Have a curfew for texting/other phone use. You can do this by setting up an automated schedule through your service provider or simply requiring the phone to be checked in at certain times (e.g., every night at 10:00).
Tips for keeping Apple iOS devices (iPads/iPod touches/iPhones) as safe as possible:
- Consider whether you want your son or daughter to have one of these devices.
- Enable the built-in restrictions on the device found under the “General” category of your device’s settings.
- Disable Safari (the device’s Internet browser).
- Disable YouTube (an app used to view videos).
- Disable the ability to install apps. Youth may find this annoying, but there are a lot of apps out there that pose a danger to our youth. Setting a ratings restriction for apps is not enough. Even seemingly harmless and otherwise beneficial apps like the Google app provide Internet access, and therefore access to inappropriate content. Requiring your son or daughter to come to you to download apps gives you an opportunity to educate yourself about the app (does it provide Internet access in some way, texting, etc.?) and decide whether or not you want it on your child’s mobile device.
- Set the appropriate ratings restrictions for music, movies and other content you may not be filtering personally.
Note: The latest operating system for Apple devices (iOS 5) has an automatically installed texting app called iMessage. This app supports both MMS and SMS messaging and allows portions of this functionality to be disabled. This can be done by going to "Messages" in the Settings application. iMessage can be turned on or off, as well as MMS and group messaging. However, disabling SMS message is not possible. This messaging mechanism was partially designed to allow carriers to send messages to mobile clients, so there is no mechanism currently available for turning them off.
It is also important to note that these settings are not covered under the built-in restriction controls, so any modifications made can be easily changes back to their original settings by any user.
- Keep texting from Taking Over, Russell and Brad Wilcox, New Era, Aug 2007, 30–33.
- OpenDNS: DNS service that creates content control at the router level so that all devices (wired or wireless) in a home have the same content filters.
- NetAngel: VPN service that filters all internet and app usage on a smart device.
- PageClean: VPN service that filters all internet and app usage on a smart device.
- Bark: Mobile software to help parents monitor, detect and alert for potential threats across multiple social media platforms.
- Harris Interactive,"A Generation Unplugged", Sept. 12, 2008
- Frank A. Drews, Hina Yazdani, Celeste N. Godfrey, Joel M. Cooper and David L. Strayer,Text Messaging During Simulated Driving, University of Utah, 16 December, 2009
- Dallin H. Oaks, “How should I behave in sacrament meeting?”, Friend, May 2010, 11