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Have you checked your kid’s phone?

Wednesday, 8th January, 2020

Inspector Yvette Smith Inspector Yvette Smith

By Myles Burt

Police have reminded parents across the Far West to check their children’s mobile applications.

Inspector Yvette Smith said checking up on your child’s app use was important, regardless of whether some parents feel by doing so that they’re being too restrictive or prying into their children’s lives.

“They’re still your children, you’re not the best friends for your kids, you need to make sure you’re parenting them, and that you do know what apps and things that they’ve got on their phones,” Inspector Smith said.

A majority of apps that pose concern are messenger apps, where incidents of cyberbullying and the exchange of inappropriate material predominately occur. 

Insp. Smith said parents should make sure that their children aren’t sending or forwarding inappropriate material, such as naked selfies over messenger apps. 

Some of the listed apps of concern are dating sites, which are inappropriate for young children, and often the domain of predators.

“If you’ve got young children going onto these dating sites, they’re not appropriate for kids to be on,” Insp. Smith said.

“They might make up a fake profile because they think it’s funny, but it’s not and their information isn’t safe there with whatever they share.”

Insp. Smith said one app in particular called ‘Calculator%’ is a concern, as the app can be used by children to hide material from their parents through the apps hidden storage database.

“It looks like a calculator app on your phone, but when you put in the secret pin number it is actually a storage facility,” Insp. Smith said.

“So they can store photos, videos and whatever it might be from them using drugs or a naked selfie that someone sent them, things like that.”

Parents should be made aware of the popular app ‘Snapchat’.

Insp. Smith said people are unaware that photos sent through the app never disappear and are kept by Snapchat in their database.

“Police do actually use that and contact Snapchat, for example, to find out if a 13-year-old child has had a naked selfie from an adult sent to them,” Insp. Smith said.

“We can actually contact the Snapchat people and say ‘I want whatever photo was sent from between this time and this time, from this person to this person’, and they can actually retrieve it.

“It’s not gone, people think once they’ve looked at it, it disappears forever.”

Insp. Smith said Snapchat users should think twice when sending photos through the app, as database hacking and unwanted screenshots could bring back old photos to the surface.

“Who knows who’s going to hack into the databases of these companies and take out these things and where else they could go,” Insp. Smith said.

“There’s no one to stop you screen-shotting a Snapchat picture and forwarding that onto other people.”

Insp. Smith said good strategies to help parents limit their kids’ use on such apps is by establishing curfew times on their children’s phone usage.

“I used to do it with my kids, it gets hard sometimes as they get older but 9pm at night, or 8pm at night, that’s it, it stays in the kitchen on charge, it doesn’t go in your bedroom,” she said.

“Because kids will tend to stay awake all night checking them or sleeping next to it waiting for the next ping of a like, picture or whatever it is to come through.”

Insp. Smith said parents still need to take an active role in checking their children’s phones for apps.

Parents should do random checks of their child’s phone at random times throughout the day every now and then, just so their child doesn’t have time to delete any apps or inappropriate material they might be hiding.

Insp. Smith said parents should friend or follow their children on apps they’re using to keep an eye on what they’re posting or sharing.

Insp. Smith said getting other family relatives such as uncles and aunties to follow their children on social media apps helps as well.

“It’s not about trying to invade their privacy, it’s just trying to be smart about what they’re doing online.” 

Parents should sit down with their kids and talks about the dangers surrounding phone apps, with follow-up reminders every now and then about online safety.

“If you do see something inappropriate on there or you hear of something inappropriate going on around the school ground, talk to them, be open with them about it,” Insp. Smith said.

“But you’re still a parent, so you’ve still got to make sure you set boundaries for your kids.”

Insp. Smith said even while there are no apps that are worse than others, it’s all about parents understanding what apps their children are using and maintaining an active role in ensuring their children are safe online.

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