7 Essential Tips for New Smartphone Owners

Smartphones have become so sophisticated that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the features and pre-installed apps that confront us when we first power up our new device. Having set up e-mail and learned the voice and text basics, we often breathe a sigh of relief and put off the more details to another day.

But despite the complex nature of today’s devices, a little time invested upfront can make all the difference to how much we enjoy our smartphones and how efficiently we use them. That same investment of time can also save us money by making sure we stay within our data plans, and erase many of the frustrations we feel when dealing with unfamiliar equipment.

Here are 7 tips for getting off on the right foot with your shiny new device:

 1. Customize your home screen

Nothing will make a smartphone feel like it’s yours than a customized home screen. Take time to set up the wallpaper, the colors, and the home screen icons just the way you want them. There is almost no limit to how much you can customize your phone with apps, widgets, notifications, ringtones, and more. Make it business-like, make it stylish, or make it zany, but above all, make it yours!

2. Get to know your camera

Of all the amazing features that your new smartphone has, the camera is the one that will give you the most reward for a little bit of study. Use filters to transform those mundane pictures into works of art; use editing tools to enhance resolution and color; use different settings to maximize the available light; use the instant share features to showcase your photos with friends and family. Being able to take great photos is often the #1 reason why people love their smartphones!

3. Understand your data usage

Nothing is more frustrating than going over your data limit without understanding why. Most new smartphones will tell you exactly which features are using up your data allowance, whether it’s e-mail, web surfing, uploading photos, or streaming music and video. They will even identify individual data-guzzling apps. Remember, if you are on a share plan, then it could be other family members that are eating up your data. Make sure everyone on your plan knows how to track their data usage.

4. Utilize battery savers

One of the biggest frustrations with a new smartphone is often battery life and not being able to get through a full day without the need for a recharge. However, most new phones offer ample tips and tools on how to extend battery life. Mostly found under Settings, power-saving tips will cover everything from reducing the time before the screen times out to turning off Bluetooth, GPS and autosync. Become a battery-saving expert and you will never have to carry that charger around with you again!

5. Backup your data

A friend of mine recently took her phone back to the store for a replacement battery and the technician ended up deleting all her photos and contacts through an inadvertent factory re-set. Make sure you use one of the many cloud services (Verizon customers can use Verizon Cloud) to sync and store all your important photos, media, contacts, and even text messages.

6. Install a phone finder app

The only thing worse than losing all your data is losing your actual phone! Both the iPhone and Windows Phone 8 devices have ‘find my phone’ features built-in to their operating systems. Android users can take advantage of a number of free apps that perform the same function. These apps will allow you to locate, call, erase or lock your phone remotely, adding much-needed peace of mind for individuals who rely on their phones for important personal and business use.

7. Utilize your hotspot

While you almost certainly bought your device as a communications and web browsing tool, your smartphone can also act as your very own personal Wi-Fi hub. Learn how to activate your smartphone’s hotspot (also referred to as Internet sharing). Smartphone hotspots use your carrier’s network to create a local Wi-Fi network that can support up to 10 enabled devices, including laptops, tablets, gaming devices, and more!

7 Consejos Esenciales para los Nuevos Usuarios de Teléfonos Inteligentes

Los teléfonos inteligentes se han hecho tan sofisticados que es fácil sentirse abrumados por todas sus características y aplicaciones pre-instaladas a las que nos enfrentamos cuando encendemos por primera vez nuestro nuevo aparato. Una vez que hemos establecido nuestro correo electrónico y aprendido lo básico acerca de voz y texto, generalmente soltamos un suspiro de alivio y dejamos para otro día los demás detalles.

Sin embargo, a pesar de la naturaleza compleja de los aparatos actuales, el hecho de invertir algo de tiempo al principio puede significar la diferencia acerca de qué tanto disfrutaremos nuestros teléfonos inteligentes y qué tan eficientemente vamos a usarlos. Esa misma inversión de tiempo también puede hacer que ahorremos dinero al asegurarnos que nos mantendremos dentro de nuestro plan de data y evitar muchas de las frustraciones que sentimos cuando nos enfrentamos a un equipo que no nos es familiar.Aquí presentamos 7 consejos para empezar con el pie correcto con respecto a tu nuevo y brillante aparato:

1. Arregla a tu gusto tu pantalla inicial

Nada hará que tu teléfono inteligente se sienta como tuyo como una pantalla a tu gusto. Tómate el tiempo de fijar el decorado del fondo, los colores y los íconos de la pantalla inicial justo como los quieras. Casi no hay límites acerca de cómo arreglar a tu gusto tu teléfono con aplicaciones, widgets, notificaciones, tonos de rin y demás.

Hazlo que parezca de una empresa, que tenga mucho estilo o que esté algo loco, pero, sobre todo ¡hazlo a tu gusto!

2. Conoce bien tu cámara

Entre todas las características sorprendentes que tiene tu teléfono inteligente, la cámara es la que te gratificará más a cambio de un poco de tiempo de estudio. Utiliza filtros para transformar esas fotos mundanas en obras de arte; usa las herramientas de edición para mejorar la resolución y el color; utiliza diferentes configuraciones para que la luz disponible sea la máxima que pudiera haber; usa la característica de compartir inmediatamente para mostrar tus fotos a los amigos y la familia. ¡Nada hará que ames más a tu teléfono que saber que puedes tomar fotos maravillosas!

3. Entiende tu uso de data

Nada es más frustrante que rebasar tu límite de data sin entender por qué sucedió. La mayoría de los nuevos teléfonos te dirá exactamente cuáles características están utilizando tu ración de data, ya sea que se trate de correo electrónico, navegación en la web, subir fotos o descargar música y videos. Incluso, identificarán las aplicaciones individuales que se “tragan” mucha data. Recuerda que si tienes un plan compartido, podría ser otro miembro de la familia quien esté gastando tu data. Asegúrate que todos los que están en tu plan saben cómo llevar la cuenta de su uso de data.

4. Utiliza ahorradores de batería

Una de las mayores frustraciones de los nuevos teléfonos es a menudo que la vida de la batería no dure un día completo sin la necesidad de recargarla. Sin embargo, la mayor parte de los nuevos teléfonos ofrece muchos consejos y herramientas acerca de cómo aumentar la vida de la batería. Generalmente se encuentran bajo Settings (Configuraciones) y los consejos acerca de cómo ahorrar energía tratan de todo: desde reducir la vida antes de que la pantalla se apague hasta apagar el Bluetooth, GPS y la auto-sincronización. Conviértete en un experto ahorrador de batería ¡y nunca tendrás que volver a llevar contigo ese cargador!

5. Respalda tu data

Recientemente, una amiga mía llevó su teléfono a la tienda para un reemplazo de batería y el técnico terminó borrando todas sus fotos y todos sus contactos a través de un “re-set” de fábrica. Asegúrate de usar alguno de los muchos servicios de nube (los clientes de Verizon pueden utilizar Verizon Cloud) para sincronizar y guardar todas tus fotos importantes, tus medios, contactos y hasta los mensajes de texto.

6. Instala una aplicación para encontrar el teléfono

Lo único peor que perder toda tu data es perder tu teléfono. Tanto el iPhone como el Phone 8 de Windows tienen integrados en sus sistemas operativos características de ‘encuentra mi teléfono’.

Los usuarios de Android pueden aprovechar varias aplicaciones gratuitas (free apps) que realizan la misma función. Estas aplicaciones te permiten localizar, llamar, borrar o poner llave a tu teléfono de manera remota, incrementando la muy necesaria tranquilidad de los individuos que confían en sus teléfonos para usos personales y de negocios.

7. Utiliza tu “hotspot”

Aunque seguramente compraste tu teléfono con la intención de que sea una herramienta de comunicación y para navegar en la web, también puede convertirse en tu muy personal centro de Wi-Fi. Aprende a activar el “hotspot” de tu teléfono (también conocido como compartir Internet). Los hotspots de los teléfonos inteligentes utilizan la red de tu proveedor para crear una red local de Wi-Fi que puede apoyar hasta a 10 aparatos habilitados, incluyendo laptops, tabletas, artículos de juego y mucho más.

El blog anterior apareció por primera vez en Insider Blog en Verizon Insider. The Online Mom recibe una compensación por participar en algunos programas promocionales de Verizon Wireless.

Understanding smartphone specs (or at least the ones that matter!)

I love checking out new smartphones. Whether I’m browsing the Apple Store, visiting one of those cool new Microsoft stores, or just checking in with my local Verizon retailer, I love to pick up the phones on display and play with all the features.

It didn’t used to be that way. There was a time when I was clueless about smartphones and the idea of walking into a store to pick out a new phone would bring me out in a cold sweat. But times have changed, and a greater familiarity with mobile technology in general – and smartphones and apps in particular – has given me a welcome level of comfort.

However, when I talk to a smartphone salesperson, there are still words and phrases that cause my eyes to glaze over and my ears to mysteriously malfunction. If you look at a detailed smartphone description, most of these terms are to be found under a heading marked ‘Specs.’ That’s short for specifications, which usually consists of a jumble of techno-speak supposedly describing the inner workings of each device.

Luckily, you don’t need to dig too deep into Specs. Some specs will detail the dimensions of the device, which you are probably already aware of, and some will talk about 1.5GHz quad core Snapdragon processors, at which point it’s best to nod your head wisely and move on. But there are some specs that are important; ones which could, or should, factor in to your buying decision.

Operating systems

Although it’s likely that you have already decided on which operating system you want before you start your search for a new phone – iOS (iPhone), Android, Windows Phone, or BlackBerry – it’s important to know which version of your chosen operating system you are going to get. While Apple usually – but not always – updates its mobile OS when it announces a new version of the iPhone, Android phone users can never be quite sure when the next version of Android will be released, and, more importantly, when an over-the-air update will be available.

Whatever phone you are buying, make sure you know which version of the operating system you are getting and how you will be able to access future updates.

Storage and memory

It’s easy to get confused between storage and memory, and many smartphone manufacturers don’t help by dropping the term storage completely and referring to everything as memory.

Think of your smartphone as an office. In your office, you have a desk, which contains the things you’re working on right now, and filing cabinets, which contain all the other files you have accumulated but which you don’t need right this minute. Your filing cabinets are your storage and your desk is your memory.

If you plan on storing a lot of music, movies, TV shows and more on your phone, then you will need to make sure you have enough storage. Some phones, like the iPhone, come with discrete amounts of storage – 16GB, 32GB, 64GB – and others come with a fixed amount of internal storage and a slot for various amounts of additional external storage.

Until recently, the absence of multi-tasking capabilities meant that the amount of memory (RAM) required for a smartphone was low – 500MB or less – but that’s starting to change. Now, it’s not unusual to find smartphones with 2GB of RAM. The key is to make sure you have enough storage for your needs. It’s unlikely that you will ever have to worry about insufficient RAM.

Battery life

Unfortunately, poor battery life remains the Achilles heel of far too many smartphones. If the promotional material for your prospective phone doesn’t make a big play of its extended battery life, then be sure to check the specs to see what the stats are. Battery life will depend on how you use the phone. If you are streaming a lot of video or using location-based apps, that will use up battery a lot faster than if you are just texting and occasionally checking e-mail. Make sure you choose a phone that will suit your needs and not leave you stranded.

Network

Here you will see a lot of abbreviations, like CDMA and GSM, followed by a series of wavelengths that would confuse even the geekiest of consumers. Dispense with all the jargon and ask your carrier whether your phone will work in all the countries you are likely to visit. The last thing you want is to plan an overseas trip and find out that your phone can’t go with you.

The other information contained under Specs will usually cover the display, the type of keyboard, and some of the more obvious features of the phone. Here, it becomes more of a personal preference, along with the type of camera, the web-based features, and the built-in apps.

Whether you’re sold on screen size, the navigation system, or just the color of the case, do spend a little time on the specs. Buying a smartphone is like buying a car – you feel a lot more comfortable if you know a little bit about what’s going on under the hood.

The Future of Fitness

I used to love going to the gym, but then marriage, a child, and a full-time job started to make serious inroads into my “me” time. But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped working out. On the contrary, it’s never been easier to throw on some exercise gear, work up a sweat, and shed those extra Holiday pounds. The reason? Xbox 360 with Kinect.

Ever since Microsoft introduced the Kinect motion sensor back in 2010, the quality of fitness video games has improved exponentially. First there was Dance Central, which was part dance moves, part workout; it continued with EA Sports Active 2 and the Zumba Fitness series; and arguably it peaked last year with Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012. But now, an entirely different type of fitness experience is available through Nike+ Kinect Training.

Nike+ Kinect Training allows you to construct a workout program that is specifically designed for you in terms of your weight, shape, fitness level and, most importantly, your fitness goals. The personalization extends to your choice of trainer, and the days of the week and times that suit you best.

Once you are into your routine, Nike+ Kinect Training constantly assesses your performance and adjusts your workouts to make sure they stay challenging and fun. Over-achieve and Nike+ Kinect Training will automatically adjust your goals and push you harder; under-achieve and it will redesign your routines to get you back on track!

Progress is monitored through Fuel Print, a constantly updated history of your performances, which helps you establish both a benchmark for your workouts and the criteria for future goal-setting. And in a Facebook-dominated world, Nike+ Kinect Training is not going to let you train alone. You can use Xbox LIVE to set up group workout routines with friends and family, take part in global challenges, and even get feedback and encouragement from top Nike athletes.

Nike+ Kinect Training is not just for adults – your kids will also love the constant movement and great music. In many ways Nike+ Kinect Training transcends the usual workout genre, demonstrating both the amazing potential of Kinect and the opportunities of a constantly networked world. You can now get healthy in your own home while loving the experience. Now that’s the future of fitness!

The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Xbox. All opinions are my own.

Save Energy with a Smarter Home

Winter is here and, like me, you are probably worried about controlling your heating costs. Here are  seven tips to help you conserve energy, save money and stay comfortable. No more worrying about those monthly power bills – even renters can save cash and increase home comfort!

Energy Audit
Begin by figuring out where the energy leaks are. Consider arranging for a professional Home Energy Audit. Alternatively, a Do-It-Yourself Energy Audit can help you find energy leaks by checking your insulation, home ventilation system, and more.

Check Your Heating System
Furnaces should be looked at every year by a professional. Depending on the type of furnace you have, filters will need to be inspected and changed on a regular basis. If your system is more than 15 years old, it might be time for a new, more energy efficient solution. Here’s a guide to the different types of heating systems.

Watch the Water
Consider putting in low-flow shower heads and faucets or replacing an old hot water heater. Turn the tank down to 120 degrees. If your family is going away for longer than 3 days, turn the tank off or dial it to vacation mode. Take showers rather than tub baths; do laundry in cold water; and don’t run the dishwasher until it’s full.

Find The Power Vampires
I was SHOCKED at how much electricity my old fridge was using! A Kill A Watt or Power Monitoring for Dummies device can save big money by letting you know how much power your appliances are using. I was pleasantly surprised to find that our power company offered rebates for purchasing Energy Star compliant appliances. Calculate how much you can save by switching to energy efficient light bulbs.

Caulking and Weather Stripping
Prevent drafts and keep the heat inside your house! Don’t be intimidated – finding and sealing leaks with weather stripping or caulking is easy to do.

Window Treatments
For our house, we chose to invest in thermal drapes. In addition to being attractive, thermal drapes will keep the house warmer in winter, cooler in summer, and will travel with us should we move.

Consider A Home Monitoring SystemRemembering to turn the heat down can be a chore and, if your family is like mine, you will forget to do it far too often. Programming your lights and appliances – and being able to access those systems via a computer or smartphone – will save you dollars and increase your comfort.

If you are a Verizon FiOS  customer, check out the Verizon Home Monitoring and Control system. Home monitoring will allow you to constantly monitor and control your heating and cooling systems and program lights and appliances. Right now new customers can get a FREEStarter Kit and the service is just $9.99 per month. Getting started is easy – you’ll save a ton of money and your family will be a lot more comfortable!

Jean Parks, aka Geekbabe, is a contributing editor for The Online Mom. Follow Jean on Twitter.

(Disclaimer: The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional campaigns for Verizon FiOS. All posts reflect the independent opinions of The Online Mom contributing editors.)

 

Locking down your smartphone

Smartphones and tablets are great for adults and teens but they also have a unique fascination for small children. Those bright screens, touch controls,  and easy-to-hold shapes and sizes make them perfect playthings for small hands and inquisitive minds.

But while handing over a mobile device to a younger child might buy mom a few moments of much-needed peace and quiet, there are also inherent dangers. Smartphones and tablets hold lots of personal information and sensitive data that we can’t afford to lose, and we’ve all heard stories about kids stumbling across inappropriate content or inadvertently triggering costly in-app purchases.

Fortunately, there are several tools we can use to lock down our phones when we pass them over to our younger kids. Here are some suggestions based on the four popular operating systems:

Windows Phone

Windows Phone 8 features the excellent Kids Corner, which can be accessed from the main Start menu or through Settings. Here, you can add games, music, videos and apps that are appropriate for your child and then lock the area down with a 4-digit pin number.

By default, kids can’t make any purchases while they are in Kids Corner, although you can set up a Wallet pin and approve in-app purchases on an individual basis. To exit Kids Corner, you just press the Start button twice and you will be taken to the main lock screen.

Android

While most Android phones don’t have built-in parental controls, there are some excellent free apps like Kids Place and Kid Mode, which combines pre-loaded games and apps with a child lock feature. Keep in mind these aren’t child monitoring apps, although Kid Mode allows you to upgrade to a more robust suite of parental controls with a premium membership. Instead, they act very much like Kids Corner for Windows Phone, restricting access to a pre-populated area.

iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch)

The recently-released iOS 7 and earlier versions of Apple’s mobile operating system have a limited set of parental controls, which restrict how various features are used. Most of these controls consist of disabling features, like the camera, Safari browsing, or access to the iTunes Store.

There is also an Allowed Content feature, which gives you the ability to restrict the type of content that is accessed or downloaded from the iTunes Store. For example, you can restrict access to songs with explicit lyrics, or filter movies, TV shows and apps according to their age ratings. You also have the ability to turn off app purchases, or require a password every time your child tries to make a purchase.

iOS 7 also extends the Allowed Content feature to web sites. The options are “All Websites,” which means there are no restrictions in place, or “Limit Adult Content,” which automatically limits access to web sites with known adult content. This option also blocks certain search terms like “sexy pictures.” Parents also have the ability to allow individually specified web sites and name web sites that iOS will “never allow.”

The Restrictions tool, which is accessed through Settings, can also be used to prevent changes to various privacy settings, including location services, photo-sharing, Bluetooth activation, and more.  Finally, there is a Game Center, which allows you to restrict access to multiplayer games and prevent third party access to existing games.

BlackBerry

BlackBerry OS users (5.0 or later) have access to Parental Controls, either as a built-in app, a free update, or a free download through BlackBerry App World. Again, the majority of controls consist of limiting access to existing features such as the camera, although there are also blocking tools for phone calls and other types of communication.

Remember, it still might be possible for younger children to purposely or accidentally circumvent controls, or venture outside of their allowed content areas by clicking on web links in games or apps. Close parental supervision of connected devices is always recommended.

Monitoring Your Teen’s Online Social Life

The Internet is an invaluable tool for teenagers, allowing them access to information that would have required their parents to spend hours in the library with a card catalog and stack of reference books. For all of the vast stores of information online, there are also more than a few dangers. Sexual predators, bullying, and inappropriate and dangerously false information are just a sampling of the trouble teens can find when their online lives aren’t supervised properly.

Here are a few tips on how to keep an eye on your teen’s online activity:

:::

Make Social Media Work For You

Adding your child on Facebook and following her on Twitter can keep you in the loop, provided that she doesn’t add you to a restricted list. If you know that your child is constantly updating her status or sending out tweets and you can’t see them, it’s a sure sign that you’ve been blocked. Making sure that you talk to your child about why you want to follow her posts can help her understand your reasoning behind these tactics.

You’ll probably have the best results with this method if you refrain from posting on her Timeline or tweeting to her, though. Remember: out of sight, out of mind. When your every word is a source of embarrassment to a moody teen, she’ll be painfully aware of your presence and more reticent when it comes to social media. A policy of radio silence is more likely to give you an accurate picture of what she does and says online.

Establish an Open Line of Communication

When your teen knows she can trust you and can come to you with any questions or concerns she has without fear of judgment, she’s more likely to be open and honest with you about her life. Letting her know that you are making an effort to monitor her online life and that you’re doing it out of concern rather than a desire to snoop is your best bet. An open, honest relationship can almost eliminate the need for monitoring.

Consider Monitoring Software Carefully

There are dozens of software products on the market that will record your teen’s keystrokes, track every move she makes online, and report the contents of her email inbox back to you. The problem with these products arises when you’re forced to confront her with proof of her misconduct. In order to discuss the matter, you’ll have to admit that you were secretly spying on her, which could seriously damage the level of trust between you. If you opt to use monitoring software, it may be best to disclose that upfront.

Keep an Eye on Your Browser’s History

Tech-savvy kids will know to clear their browser’s history, but even the stealthiest teens can forget from time to time. Making a habit of checking the browser can give you some clues as to what your kids are looking at online. Just be sure that you’re confronting your teen with something he actually looked at, rather than blaming him for a misstep made by another member of the household.

Use Parental Controls

There are basic parental controls built into most web browsers, which can filter the majority of the objectionable content that comes up in a general search. As with browser history, a tech-savvy teen can find ways to circumvent these controls, but they do provide a layer of protection from inadvertent stumbles upon questionable material.

Think About Computer Placement and Access

It’s certainly easier and more convenient to provide your child with a laptop or a computer in his room to complete homework assignments and such, but you’re effectively forfeiting your ability to keep an eye on his activity. By placing the computer your teen uses in a high-traffic area and limiting his access to a specified amount of time, you can keep a closer watch on the things he’s doing online.

Work Out a Social Networking Policy That’s Acceptable to Both of You

An overly-authoritarian approach to social networking and Internet use will almost certainly make your teen feel more rebellious and less eager to comply, but working together to draft an agreement everyone can live with gives them a modicum of control. At an age when asserting independence is so important, this small gesture can make a big difference in the way that your teen views his Internet use and the rules you’ve made together. Working out the agreement also provides you with a built-in opportunity to discuss the reasons why responsible social networking use is important, the repercussions of posting too much information, and why you’re concerned with his online activity in the first place.

The above article first appeared in Kiwi Commons, a tech news and information weblog.

Be smart about kids’ smartphones: Tips to make sure they enjoy benefits without the dangers

Most mobiles are now smartphones that give kids access to the internet and yet two-thirds of youngsters’ phones do not have parental controls

Deciding whether to give your child a mobile phone has never been trickier for mums.

Not only is the age when youngsters begin pestering for one falling all the time (three in four already have a phone by the age of 10), but there’s also the worry that the latest devices do so much more than just make calls and text.

Most mobiles on the market are now smartphones – powerful mini-laptops that give kids access to the internet 24/7 and yet two-thirds of youngsters’ phones do not have parental controls.

So how do you allow your kids to stay up to date and ensure they’re safe?

Here, online parenting guru Monica Vila, author of Generation Smartphone, a guide for parents, shares her tips.

Would a smartphone make my child safer?

Although kids want a phone to download apps and play games, the test is whether they need one.
Monica says: “With many parents going out to work these days, it may be that the phone is needed for your piece of mind – especially as many come with global positioning apps, which help you locate where your child is.”

Look for signs that they can be trusted. Take a cue from how responsibly your child uses video games and the internet.

Do they stop when you ask them? Do you think they would use technology safely out of your sight, too?

Is your child old enough for a mobile phone?

It’s even more important you ask yourself the right questions if you’re considering buying them a smartphone, says Monica.

Do they look after their things? If your child’s homework gets lost on its way from school, chances are it won’t be long before their new gadget goes astray, too. Monica says: “Wait until they are more responsible with their possessions.”

How do I buy them their first phone?

To start with, Monica suggests buying the previous model of the latest device, like the iPhone 4 instead of 5, and offering upgrades as rewards: “The outdated models not only tend to be cheaper but your children will also have to earn your trust for the latest model with responsible phone use.”

How do you set it up?

Set a password: Setting a password is the first line of defense against thieves or other kids who may “ borrow” your child’s phone to play practical jokes.

Get a cover: Inevitably, your child will drop the phone. Buy a case that is designed for the specific model – it’ll keep the screen safe and save you the cost of replacing it.

Pick a pocket: Choose a special pocket in their school backpack for the phone and tell them to make sure they always keep it there so they keep tabs on it.

Look for easy-to-use controls: The latest smartphones have much better built-in controls. Use a separate parental password to add or take away the phone’s capabilities, according to how responsible your child is.
Set up a contacts list: Most parents give kids phones to keep them safe. So start by putting in the numbers for parents, grandparents, their school and emergency contacts.

Download safety apps: The good thing about smartphones is that you can download software that keeps them safer. For example, the Lookout app will help you locate your child’s phone by making a high-pitched squealing sound if it goes missing. It also protects kids from downloading bad apps. Go to www.mylookout.com for details.

How to set ground rules

Many mums now find it more economical to add their child’s phone to their existing mobile bills, rather than trying to limit kids’ usage with pay-as-you-go plans.

It can also be frustrating for parents trying to get hold of kids to find that it’s not possible for them to ring you because they’ve run out of credit.

But more freedom means it’s essential you lay down the ground rules.

Surprisingly, the best judge of regulation could be your child.

Monica says: “If you give your 12-year-old a smartphone and say let’s draft some rules, nine out of 10 times they will add some you’ve never thought of because this is their big chance to show they can be responsible.”

One key rule adults may have to establish though is to ban phones overnight from bedrooms.

Monica suggests kids hand them over every evening for parents to recharge. “If you leave them in the bedroom, they won’t be able to resist them. They will end up deprived of sleep and that could wreck their schoolwork, too.”

How to deal with the issue of sexting

Even if it seems early, broach this subject sooner rather than later, because sending a sex-related text (sext) may be a natural by-product of their curiosity as they go through puberty. From the very outset, explain they should never post or send pictures likely to make others feel uncomfortable.

“Make them realize it’s not just you by showing them examples in the news of what can happen when it all goes wrong,” says Monica.

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD A FREE COPY OF GENERATION SMARTPHONE: A GUIDE FOR PARENTS OF TWEENS & TEENS BY MONICA VILA FROM MOBILE SECURITY SITE WWW.MYLOOKOUT.COM.

The above article appeared in the The Daily Mirror, published by MGN Limited, part of Trinity Mirror plc.

How to avoid social networking scams

Social networking sites such as Facebook may be wonderful ways to keep track of friends and family, but they are also home to tens of millions of anonymous strangers. More recently, they’ve become the stomping ground for a growing number of people who aren’t who they claim to be.

Faking an identity is a big deal in the world of social networking and it can hit you in a number of ways. Maybe there’s someone out there claiming to be a friend. Maybe there’s a friend claiming to be someone else. Or perhaps there’s even someone claiming to be you.

The point is that faking an ID on a social networking site isn’t very difficult, yet the potential damage can be devastating.

Here are some simple tips to help you avoid falling for a social networking scam:

 

  • Adjust your privacy settings, so the information you post is only seen by the people it’s intended for. Recognize the difference between the areas of a social networking site that are private and those that are public, and post with that in mind.
  • Don’t randomly click on every link that pops up. Beware truncated links and delete or ignore anything you can’t immediately identify.
  • Never transfer money or arrange any kind of financial transaction over a social network. If you receive a request for help from a friend, always contact the person by phone before you take any action.
  • Social networking quizzes, games, or free apps are not always as innocent as they seem. If you are asked to divulge any personal information to win a prize – such as a telephone number or date of birth – then skip the fun and uninstall the app.
  • Regularly change your password, and make sure you use different passwords for your social networking pages than you use for your online banking or other sensitive accounts.
  • Do not respond to pop-ups encouraging you to meet new friends or take any action that’s unusual.
  • If you do become a victim of harassment or a scam, save the exchanges and any other information that’s relevant. You may need it later when you’re trying to mitigate the damage!