BUYER BEWARE: Hot Gifts This Holiday Season Could Have Hidden Dangers

By Kari Glemaker

iPhone, BlackBerry Curve, Razor, LG 1. The list of cell phones available today seems unending and often times confusing! And now these devices are showing up on our children’s Christmas list! And did you include an adaptor, extra media cards, headphones, and car charger? While you may have purchased all the goodies to complete the wireless package, hopefully you haven’t overlooked one “necessary” item on the list. Have you checked the cell phone settings or enabled the Parental Controls on your child’s latest wireless gift?

Current statistics show 55 million teens (45% of the teen population) have cell phones. 48 billion text messages are sent every month, equaling 1.6 billion a day. Of those “texters,” 84% are between the ages of 13-25. At this time, more than half of all cell phones are camera and music enabled. And if a mobile phone is Internet capable, your son or daughter can have the following delivered to the palm of their hand:
– Photos
– Videos
– Music
– XM satellite radio
– Global Positioning System (GPS)
– TV shows
– Cable programming
– Gaming
– Interactive computing
– Debit/credit card money manager

As with home computers, this new handheld technology has allowed our children and young people to gather information instantly. Though most parents use their cell phone for voice communication, our kids are using it to get their information. And unfortunately, with all the great features come several large concerns, one of which is pornography.

Creators and distributors of pornographic material now have a new distribution system that can deliver their materials and services to our youngest children. Other potential dangers lie in mobile entertainment such as online video games and video chat rooms.

iCare about protecting children (www.icarecoalition.org) was created by the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families primarily to raise awareness among women and their friends of the potential dangers caused by improper use of wireless technology. Parents must be educated about their children’s cell phone settings and usage.

As a parent, we suggest taking the following steps:

– As you consider purchasing a wireless device, visit the company’s website for information on parental controls and instruction on how to employ the safely features.
– Ask good questions at the point of purchase (a list of questions can be found at www.icarecoalition.org), read your services contract and review your monthly service bill to understand the charges.
– Set clear and understandable boundaries with your children in regard to wireless devices and portable gaming systems. Let your children know there are consequences if they misuse the technology. Safe practices and policies should include:
o Not sharing personal information
o Not using vulgar or sexually explicit language
o Not posting photos on social networking websites

A “Safe Use Agreement” to be signed by both parent and child can be found atwww.icarecoalition.org.

– Be aware of how your children are using their wireless technology. As parents, you may be held legally or otherwise responsible for their actions.
– Get involved with the National Coalition’s iCare…about protecting children movement. We provide a twice monthly electronic communication which educates and offers help to ensure your child’s safety when using their mobile device. Consider joining the iCare movement at www.icarecoalition.org.

CHRISTMAS CHECK LIST
Adaptor
Headphones
Media card
Car charger
Parental Controls enabled on child’s cell phone

Remember, informed parents make the best decisions for their children!

Kari Glemaker serves as National Director of iCare about protecting children, a women’s prayer movement launched by the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families in 2006

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