Mobile Phones and Teenage Safety
Mobile phones are proving to be a big hit with teenagers but as technology gets more advanced the safety risks are becoming more pronounced and troubling.
Threats to Teenage SafetyWhether it’s bullying, grooming, theft, ‘happy slapping’, scams or health risks, it’s hard to believe such a tiny, innocuous gadget as the mobile phone could present such a colourful array of potential dangers to the teenager. And furthermore in being so inconspicuous and portable, the mobile makes it very difficult for parents to guard against such threats.
At a time when mobile phones would only allow teenagers the facility to text message and call one another, mobile bullying and theft were the primary concerns for parents.
Mobile Bullying and AbuseSMS messaging has brought bullying into the 21st century because the round the clock accessibility of mobile users means that bullies no longer need wait outside the school gates for their prey but can pursue them at all hours. The damaging psychological impact of SMS bullying on its victims has made it one of the biggest safety concerns about teenage mobile use.
Parents should encourage their child to speak about any harassment they might be experiencing so that the problem is not driven underground where it may fester and cause greater damage. If the mobile bullying continues for a long period then it is worth contacting the mobile phone operator to report the problem.
Abusive calls - that strain of telephone bullying familiar to landline users – also pose a threat to teenage mobile users, who could be subjected to threats of violence or regular unnerving silent calls. If you complain to the police or and network operator then these calls could be traced, although this can prove difficult if the perpetrator is a pay as you go caller without any record of their identity.
Risk of TheftAs mobile phones are desirable items – that are becoming more and more desirable as their capabilities grow - then theft is always going to be problem, but with children it is even more pronounced because, as statistics show, they are much more likely to have their phone stolen. If your child’s mobile phone is stolen then it should be reported to the police straight away. As a security measure it is recommended to always keep the phone protected with a PIN access number. This will help prevent the stolen phone being used to make calls.
New Technology, New Phone ThreatsAs mobile technology advances at a phenomenal rate, it introduces ever more exciting new features, but with them come new dangers for teenagers. The two biggest recent threats are ‘happy slapping’, which takes advantage of new video phone capabilities, and grooming, a familiar threat for Internet users that has now spread to web-enabled phones.
The happy slapping craze, where unwitting victims are attacked in order to film their reaction on a video phone, first became popular in the playgrounds of South London in 2004 and grew into a national scourge. This vicious ‘prank’ led to mobile phones being banned from certain schools and as the assaults became more serious and violent, incidents led to police convictions.
Grooming is the name given to practice of paedophiles befriending children in Internet chat rooms by posing as other children for the purposes of sexual liaisons. Although a high profile problem, grooming is a very minor risk particularly as mobile Internet use has not widespread yet, but it is nevertheless important that your child is taught about how watch out and protect themselves from strangers on the web.
Health RisksIf these weren’t enough reasons to be worried about your teenager using a mobile phone, there is also the ever pressing concern about health risks. Although there is no direct evidence yet to suggest that mobiles pose a threat to a child’s health, what we do know is they emit low levels of radiation and children are three times more vulnerable to radiation than adults.
One scientist warned that if mobile phones were a type of food, they would not be licensed because of the great uncertainty regarding their safety. It therefore makes sense that parents should adopt a cautious approach in supervising their child’s mobile phone use. For instance children should be encouraged to text rather than call.
Tips for Keeping Your Child Safe
- Children should be encouraged to speak openly about who they are in contact with.
- Educate them about not giving out personal details to strangers.
- Buy your child a phone with the basic text and calling facility rather than all the latest smart phone functionality.
- Opt for a pay as you go phone rather than contract. This way you can keep tabs on how much they are spending.
- Protect them from thieves by encouraging them to keep their phone hidden whilst in public.