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Parenting - not parental controls - will ensure smartphone safety

Tuesday, January 13th 2015 by Dean Reilly

Education is more important than technological advances when it comes to helping children stay safe on their mobile phones, the director of an app development company has said.

Erin Nelson, communications director of Location Labs, told Cable.co.uk: “It’s a Pandora’s box. A smartphone is a wonderful thing that can give you access to everything, and it can be a terrible thing that can give you access to everything, if you don’t know what to do with what you’ve accessed.”

Speaking at International CES, Ms Nelson said that technology provided a “double-edged sword” for young people and that parents should play their part in helping young people use it responsibly.

She said: “It’s not just about not wanting your teenager texting, it’s about how they’re going to have some kind of device, not just for the next couple of decades, but probably for life.

“If you use it with kindness, and conscientiousness, and you use it wisely it can change the world.

“If you don’t use those things when you are using technology, you can ruin people. You can yourself have horrible experiences. That’s the far end of the spectrum. Then even in the middle of the spectrum you can really do damage to your health if you’re not getting enough sleep.

“You can do damage to your ability to concentrate and study. You can do damage to relationships if you become that person at dinner who can’t look away from a phone.”

'Put the phone down'

In addition to producing applications that help parents monitor and control their children's mobile phone use, Location Labs also produces resources to help educate children about responsible mobile phone use on their partner site Safely.com.

She said: “Tech can only solve so many problems, tech can give you the tool to actually find your child. Tech can give you the tool to lock their phone. Tech cannot tell you how to have a constructive conversation with your child over why you’re locking your phone, or why you might need to locate them, or why it might be helpful for them to locate you if you choose to use the technology in that way.”

Ms Nelson added that parents shouldn’t just lecture their children about responsible mobile phone use, but should also be mindful of how they personally use communications technology around the home.

She said: “Adults are part of the conversation too. We hear from adults that they hear from kids: 'Hey mom, put the phone down.' Granted, I’m using it for something legitimate, but if my daughter is talking to me, whatever she’s saying, she deserves my attention and she’ll call me on it. And I’ll acknowledge it and say she’s right. None of us want our kids to be that guy at dinner."

Additional reporting by Ellen Branagh

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