Ahh summer! Time to throw the doors open, go to the swimming pool, work from your private beach, MANAGE YOUR KIDS INTAKE OF TECHNOLOGY!? Okay so perhaps that was not on your summer agenda, but with many teens and pre-teens toting smart phones and devices these days, parents need to take a summer school class in their carrier's offerings to keep their families safe when using mobile devices.
Thankfully our kids are grown and we only have the Schrecklet, our 16-year-old daughter, at home but a friend of mine has a thirteen-year-old daughter, and she recently asked me about parental controls available through mobile carriers. I had just returned from an awesome meeting at Verizon's Innovation Center in San Francisco with a group of bloggers (Follow this tech savvy bunch at #VZWBuzz on Twitter or The Online Mom site) and this was one of the topics we discussed! I was thrilled that I knew enough about the features to sound somewhat knowledgable. Later that day, I went to Schreck Academy Summer School for Mobile Devices to learn more. (This is when I dive deep into a research mode to learn more about my gadgets and tech services.)
I logged into MYVERIZON.com and took a peek in the MANAGE VERIZON SAFEGUARDS tab. I discovered a treasure trove filled with tech goodness for parents! From the number of minutes your kids use, to blocking calls and texts, you have the power to control it all with Verizon Safeguards. Now before you get ideas like I did, to block all usage until 2 hour foot massages and hair-brushing sessions are given, remember this is for the love and safety of your offspring. Here are 4 of the features I found:
CALL AND MESSAGE BLOCKING
With Call and Message Blocking you can block unwanted incoming text, picture or video messages from up to 5 different phone numbers. I can think of several numbers I would have added to this list years ago when my sons were young, but we have been fairly drama-free with the girls (shocking, I know!). WAIT, perhaps I can still think of a few people I can add to this list for MY PHONE! But seriously this can be very helpful if you have an ex-boyfriend or psycho-girlfriend that you need to block for yourself or your teen.
Again, because my kids are pretty close to angelic, I do not have need of the Usage Controls, but WOW would it be helpful for some parents to set limits on the number of hours a teen spends playing games or surfing the internet! With Verizon's Usage Controls, you can even set the hours your teen can use their phone (not during school or family vacation time) and a curfew on texting or talking on it! Okay so you may be damaging the relationship with your teen and will have to pay for therapy later, but at least your teen will have plenty to tell the therapist…it will not be wasted money!
My favorite feature was the Family Locator. With our youngest Schrecklet just getting her driver's license, we have already had a few situations where she was completely lost and couldn't even tell us where she was so we could guide her home. We live in a semi-remote area that requires lots of driving and the peace of mind this gives a parent to know your child has arrived at the location they set out for without having to wait for them to send a text telling you they made it (I don't know why this is so difficult to remember to do) is well worth the $10 extra per month! Now the only problem is I can no longer tell my husband that I have already left to come and meet him if he can see that I am still at home! This is a great feature for those who have young cell phone users and want to have the peace of mind knowing they are safely where they are supposed to be.
I learned about Service Blocks and thankfully can still take advantage of this one! Kids love custom ringtones, wallpapers and games that each cost a buck or two. With the Service Blocks feature you can set it so a password must be used before any app or paid service can be downloaded! (Just paid for that therapy in savings right here).With many phones being able to access the internet, you can also rest assured that your angels wont be able to access inappropriate music, TV and video with the CONTENT FILTERS available here.
So whether you have Verizon or not, and whether you have teens with devices (sounds like a scary movie) or not, take some time to get SCHOOLED on your controls and safety features available through your carrier. If you are a parent, remember, you need to be smarter than your child, or at least act like it, when it comes to online safety. I know Verizon even offers classes in most of their larger stores so you can get all the help you need.
Social media and mobile devices are not the area you can stick your head in the sand and pray this phase of your teen's life passes quickly (although that is desirable at times). It is your responsibility to help teach them about online safety and this includes all of the devices they use to get there.
So while you are lounging on your private beach this summer, or next to the blow up swimming pool, you now have plenty to read! I would love to hear of any other features or apps you know about to keep families safe while surfing the social web on our mobile devices. Please share in our comments area here~
Gina Schreck is the president and chief hooligan at SocialKNX, an interactive media and technology company. Although we spend our days living and breathing social media, technology makes us giddy and we are each parents looking for ways to teach our children to grow up socially safe and socially savvy!