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CELL PHONES AND YOUR CHILDREN


It amazes me at the number of children that own a cell phone these days. I am talking about small children 10 years of age or younger. I get that parents want to stay in touch with them and to know where they are and what they are doing, but there are dangers in those cell phones that parents should be aware of, like predators looking for ways to lure your unsuspecting children into possible dangerous situations.


I was reading an article the other day on this subject and I really want to share this information with parents whose children own a cell phone. Before kids go back to school, police around the country are reminding parents about these potentially dangerous apps. The scary part in this article was that they listed 15 apps as ones that parents need to know about. (Six of them were used by suspected predators who were recently arrested.)


The first is 'MeetMe,' an app where teens can easily be in contact with users much older than them, with an emphasis on dating.'WhatsApp' and 'SnapChat' are for messaging, but what you should know is teens can send unlimited messages, have video chats and even share their live location with other users, people they may not even know. 'Skout' is a flirting app that's used to meet and chat with new people. Teens and adults are in different groups, but ages aren’t verified. 'TikTok' is used for sharing user created videos that can contain bad words, even adult content.'Badoo' and 'Bumble' are dating apps for adults, but teens can still find ways to join. 'Grindr' is geared towards the LGBTQ community. It allows users to share photos and meet up based on phone’s GPS location. 'Kik' is specifically for kids, but anyone can join and anyone can contact or direct message your child. 'LiveMe' is a live streaming app, but you don’t know who’s watching and your child’s location is revealed.'Holla' is all about connecting strangers around the world through video chat. Enough said. 'Whisper' is a social confessional where kids can remain anonymous, but still share their feelings. And it can reveal your child’s location for a meet up. 'ASKfm' encourages people to allow anonymous users to ask them questions, which opens the door for online bullying.'Hot or Not' rates users on attractiveness. There’s no age verification and users can send each other messages. And lastly, 'Calculator%' apps are several secret apps that allows kids to hide their photos, videos, even browser history.


The good news is that there are also Apps that can help parents manage their child’s cell phone. One great one I found is “Google Family Link”. It is a free app that parents can download on their iPhone or Android phone to manage their child’s Android phone. Parents can limit how much time their child spends on the phone, schedule the phone to be inaccessible at bedtime, and block their child’s access to the phone with one tap. Google Family Link, however, is usable only for children under the age of 13. Once kids reach this age, they can sign up for a Google account on their own and opt out of monitoring. Though parents can completely block the use of individual apps, Google Family Link does not allow them to set time limits for individual apps.


An annual subscription to “Qustodio” is the best way for families with kids aged 13 and up with an Android phone to track and manage usage. As with Google Family Link, parents can use Qustodio’s app to set a daily overall screen time limit for their child, and block access to the phone with a single tap. Unlike Google Family Link, Qustodio also allows parents to set time limits on individual apps, block out more than one time period when the phone is off limits (such as bedtime and dinnertime), read text messages, and see their child’s Web searches.


If your child owns an Apple cell phone, the Apple’s “Screen Time” is a free set of parental controls built into iOS 12, the iPhone’s latest operating system. It allows parents to manage their child’s iPhone or iPad remotely; set a daily limit on the time they spend on specific apps, on categories of apps, or generally on the phone; and automatically limit access to the phone at bedtime. Setup can be confusing, but no other software gives you as much insight into and control over the use of an iPhone or iPad, in part because Apple has such tight control over its software and hardware.

Just like anything, there is always good and bad. Not wanting to give you only the bad news, here is some good! There is a ton of FUN apps for your children for their cell phone and there are a lot of them out there. Learn about music, exercise their brains with puzzles and even learn other languages.


Shapes Toddler Preschool (free)

This app gets kids ready for preschool with puzzles and games involving shapes, colours, numbers, and letters. The app is laid out so that a young child can click around without getting out of the game or ending up at a menu, and the controls are easy enough for anyone to use. There are four ways to play but all of them are educational and should help with development. Shapes Toddler Preschool features over 30 categories, which include shapes, colours, money, symbols, and numbers. The game has puzzles, games, and flashcards to make learning easy.

I love this app and I have always wanted to learn Spanish. This is something parents can do with their children and we can all learn a second language together. YAY!!


Rosetta Stone Kids (free)

Rosetta Stone Kids Lingo Letter Sounds is a fun, educational app that teaches preschoolers how to read and speak. This game is perfect for parents looking to teach their child more than one language, as the Rosetta Stone app reinforces English reading skills while simultaneously introducing Spanish. The app casts the child as a saviour for trapped toys. Kids have to speak Spanish to control the actions of different characters on screen, matching the correct starting letter sound to release each toy.


Musical Me! (free)

Musical Me! is an award-winning app that teaches kids notes, rhythm, and pitch. Children will join Mozzarella the Mouse in a musical world and learn the fundamental components of music. They’ll work on their memory by listening to the notes and copying the pattern to train their ears to hear different pitches. Kids will also learn about rhythm, short and long notes, how to read music notes, and even how to create their own music. A handful of popular children’s songs recorded especially for the app are featured, including Mary Had a Little Lamb, Pop Goes the Weasel, and Skip to My Lou. Kids will also hear instrumental versions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Wheels on the Bus, Old MacDonald, and more.


Trust me I could list FUN apps all day long. Educational, Science, Language, Games, Art, Music and they can even learn about programming and coding – crazy.

So just a word of caution if your child has a cell phone: be aware of what they are using it for so they do not get themselves into trouble.


I found a wonderful site called “Common Sense Media”. It is a good website to keep handy. It gives parents a break down on what they should know about each and every app out there. And it provides advice on monitoring your children’s apps.


Technology has truly changed all our lives and cell phones have also enabled families to keep in closer touch with each other and helped to make our lives more convenient. Just be wise and safe when it comes to your children.


Kathryn Hartwell

References: digitaltrends.com, thewirecutter.com and streetdirectory.com

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