There was a time, not so long ago, when having a mobile phone at school was simply not allowed. Times have changed and whilst mobile phones are still banned in a third of UK schools, they are welcome in some schools, with some guidelines and rules surrounding their usage, of course. Furthermore, the age of the typical child with a mobile phone in school is getting younger too. Let’s assume your child is able to take a mobile phone to school, after all, there are positives, but how can we as parents manage children’s online activity in this environment, including the type of content they can access and the time spent using the device? This brings me to the content of this post, in which I examine some of the ways for our children to stay mobile safe at school.
Before we look into how we might keep kids mobile safe at school, let’s first consider the pros and cons of mobile phone usage in schools…
Benefits of Mobile Phones in School
Some of the benefits of children taking a mobile phone to school include:
- Parental Contact/Emergencies – The amount of time it takes to reach a parent during an emergency can be significantly reduced if the child has a mobile phone.
- Scheduling/Calendar – Most phones have a calendar which provides an easy way for students to keep track of homework, assignments or upcoming tests.
- Research – The internet can be a useful tool for research on different projects.
- Note taking – The camera on a smartphone is a great way to capture notes from a board or projector in an instant. I’ve done this myself several times at office meetings.
- Keeping tabs – Mobile tracking options can be used to help you know where your child is.
- Peace of mind – Knowing that you are able to reach your child at a moment’s notice will give any parent the peace of mind.
Potential Problems of Mobile Phones in School
- It could get lost or stolen – It’s possible that your child’s mobile phone could be stolen or lost whilst at school.
- It could distract them – Smartphones can be quite distracting for kids as they can also play games, surf the internet and listen to music on these devices. All these features could interfere with your child’s concentration and ability to learn if they play with them in class.
- It is easier to cheat – The internet can be used to look up answers, so it could be tempting for students to use the device to cheat.
- lack of control – Out of sight and out of reach we don’t know what kind of content our children could be accessing.
What can parents do?
So given that we know there are positives of children taking a mobile phone to school, but that there are negatives, what can parent’s do to counter potential problems. Below I have listed a number of ways in which you can take control…
• School Policies: Most schools will have thorough policies in place regarding mobile phone use by pupils, and it is likely these guidelines are reviewed and revised on a regular basis. You should ensure you stay informed of any such policies so you are aware of how and when your child is likely to be using their device at school. If you’re not happy with the policies in place, consider discussing the issue with other parents and don’t be afraid of voicing your concerns.
• Block Unsuitable Content: You can ask your mobile provider to block access to porn and other sites considered unsuitable for under-18s. Note that this block is effective when using mobile data which is controlled by the provider. Accessibility of content via wifi connections is controlled by whoever provides the wifi access.
• Record the IMEI: Keep a record of the unique IMEI number for the phone. You can type *#06# into the phone’s dialer and it will display this 15-digit code. You can use this to register at Immobilise.com, so if the phone is stolen and then found or recovered by the police, they can check it against the database and potentially return it. Always report a stolen phone to the network immediately.
• Use a Dumb Phone: You don’t need a cutting-edge smartphone to keep in touch. This point is particularly relevant for younger children. A ‘dumb phone’ that can make and receive calls and texts will provide many of the benefits outlined above but without the worry of not knowing what content they might be using it to access.
• Tracking Apps: If the device is a smartphone, it will likely have GPS functionality that tracking apps could help you stay informed of the phone and (hopefully) your child’s location.
• Security Software: Finally, one of the best things you can do is to consider installing security software on the phone. Antivirus software may come to mind but more comprehensive services are now available which give you full visibility and control of how a device is being used as well as protection and as a result, peace of mind. Features may vary but comprehensive, adaptive solutions are available such as the new Kaspersky Security Cloud service.
This particular software can be installed across multiple devices, including Macs, PC’s and mobile devices making it great for parents and families. It protects against Trojans, worms and phishing and lots more. Makes connecting to public WiFi safer by stopping your messages from falling into the wrong hands and keeping your passwords and personal contact and payment card details locked in a secure vault. It records search history so you know how the device has been used and automatically alerts you about suspicious malware and whether it has been eliminated. Parents can create multiple accounts for their children and adjust the settings accordingly to control what they access on which device and how long they can spend on a device or online. Parents can also create alerts and be informed about a child’s internet usage e.g. when a child has opened a page that is potentially inappropriate. Parents can also identify the location of a device (if that feature is switched on). The app will also warn a parent if a child tries to disable the app.
Even without dedicated software, most smartphones allow you to restrict access to settings meaning you can create a restricted profile for your child and turn off certain features.
Having examined the options available to parents in keeping kids mobile safe at school, there are things that parents can do. The best option does seem to be installing security software but this obviously comes at a cost but does offer peace of mind.
Do your kids take a mobile phone to school? If so, what controls if any, do you have in place to manage their access? Can you recommend any other things parents can do when allowing children access to a mobile device at school?
*Disclosure: This is a Sponsored Post
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