It's no surprise that wireless phones were at the top of teenagers' wish lists this holiday season. For many teens, that handset they found under the tree is their very first cell phone.
But before parents let their newly wireless teens head out the door, they should ask themselves, "What are the things my son or daughter needs to know about cell phone safety?"
1) Pre-program all key contact numbers for parents or other responsible adults into a teen's cell phone, both for home and work.
2) Make sure to program an ICE ("in case of emergency") number with appropriate contact information, so that police and other emergency personnel know who to call if the child needs help. This means you list a number so it appears as ICE on the alphabetical contacts list.
3) Make sure they know they can use "911" for emergencies from cell phones as well.
4) One can also use the preprogrammed keys #2-9 [#1 usually is preset to dial voicemail] using #2 for 911, #3 for home, etc.
5) Remind teens not to say their phone number, name or other personally identifiable information out loud in crowded settings. They never know who might be listening.
6) Teens must be reminded that talking on handsets while driving is a dangerous -- and in many states, illegal -- distraction and should be avoided. Ear "buds" are useful for talking on the phone but still require dialing, which should not be done while driving. Some phones offer voice-activated dialing; if so, the voice activations should be done in advance. Ideally, teens should pull over in a safe place, turn the car off, keep doors locked and then make their necessary call.
7) Fun features on cell phones like texting, downloading ringtones or instant messaging are great, but it is important to use them in the appropriate time and place. Not only does this relate to courtesy toward others, even more important is to remind teens to remain aware of their surroundings (such as crossing a busy street or walking alone at night) while using the phone.
8) Remind them not to use their phone at school.
9) They should give out their cell phone numbers only to people that they know and trust and they should never respond to text messages from an unknown or unrecognizable number.
10) Teach teens how to block suspicious or unwanted numbers from their cell phones.
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