The fact that 80% of cellphone users keep their mobile devices within arm’s reach, coupled with growing acceptance of preteen mobile use, means parenting in the age of always-on connectivity has taken on a decidedly digital edge.
That’s the word from South Africa’s Wireless Application Service Providers’ Association (WASPA) which adds that the solution and the challenge of protecting children from digital threats are two sides of the same mobile coin.
“Parents cannot hope to be ‘always-on’, standing ready to guide their children as they navigate social media, over the top (OTT) messaging platforms and the mobile web,” says Ilonka Badenhorst, WASPA GM, referring to the three biggest potential threats facing the millions of South African minors now operating mobile devices.
Digital parenting using the many content and applications tools developed by firms like WASPA’s over 400 wireless application service provider (WASP) members can help keep connected children safe.
Here are WASPA’s top five tips for using apps to become better digital parents:
* The first tip is to recognise that apps are hugely popular amongst all age groups and very likely to be downloaded by children. To control when apps are downloaded, parents should not allow app stores to retain their credit card details. If this is impossible, fill in an incorrect digit and change it to the correct digit when you do want to use your credit card to pay for apps that the whole family can feel safe accessing.
* Use your chosen app store to download a password-protected file storage vault and use it to store not only sensitive personal details, but also your entire app library so that access to downloaded apps is always tightly-controlled.
* Downloading a data usage app is a good way to keep tabs on your child’s online activities by enabling parents to become aware of any unusual spikes in data usage that may indicate potentially harmful communications.
* Agree on a specific number of apps that your children are allowed to download. If you agree on a manageable number like 5 or 10 apps, then you’ll be better able to determine if any of the apps selected by your child could be potentially harmful.
* There are some phenomenal child protection apps now available online. Some store your children’s vital statistics in case they go missing, some can locate children in seconds and others still allow parents to contact medical providers at the touch of a button – or the tap of a screen. Spend a good couple of hours researching the best available local child protection apps: it could very well end up being time well spent.
Finally, possibly the most effective digital parenting move that switched-on parents can make is to check how their cellular network protects children from adult content.
Vodacom enables parents to block adult content from being received on their child’s cellphone by dialing *111*123# from the cellphone they want to block. For MTN subscribers to block certain content, all they have to do is dial *101# from the handset, select the content that needs to be barred, create a PIN number and input the parent’s mobile number.