When we bought a cellphone for our son, we worried. We worried about how it would affect his brain to be hooked into social media all the time. We worried about online bullying and if he’d be respectful and responsible. We worried that he’d become a video screen monster who never looked up and only grunted in response to our questions about his day at the dinner table.
But we forgot to worry about the most basic thing – we were giving him a pretty expensive, delicate piece of electronic equipment that needs care.
He wasn’t a little kid when he got his first phone – 14 then, and he’s 15 now. He’s grown up with technology and computers and fancy television remote controls that, some days, are capable of more advanced thought than I am. So we figured he’d be able to handle the basic care of his device instinctively; surely the ins and outs of technology were as natural to him as breathing.
The other day, he brought his phone to his dad because he was having trouble getting an app to work. We hadn’t looked at in a while, trusting that he was following all our rules and being responsible.
And he was – with the connections and the actual use of the media – but not when it came to basic security. What we found was:
- a warning came up, in nice big letters when you started the phone, that some sort of malware had been detected and should be dealt with;
- a pending software update was waiting to be installed for security reasons; and
- some sort of bug on his phone had set his home screen background image to a snapshot of his school’s Wi-Fi login screen, complete with partially filled out data.
When questioned, he confessed that these three problems had been there for months. But he’s too eager to do phone stuff when he picks up his phone to actually care about the upkeep of said phone.
We sorted out the problems. Removed the malware, updated the system software, and fixed the background image. We showed him how to respond to messages like this and how to maintain his device.
Then, we had a nice long talk about security, and why it is important. That he needs to keep his passwords safe, and to think twice about what kind of software he installs. To only give access to trusted apps and people, to make sure his privacy is protected and to make sure his friends’ information, which he is a custodian of, is also protected. To keep his phone in tip-top technical shape, to make sure it’s as safe as it can be from any hackers or other threats that might want secret access to his information.
And we also reminded him that a phone is an expensive privilege, and should be respected as such. We have a new rule now – warnings on his phone should be acted on right away. If he isn’t sure what to do, he should come to us. If something seems wrong with his phone, he shouldn’t just assume that everything is safe and carry on as usual.
We made lots of rules when he got his phone – I didn’t even think this one would be required. But it’s a learning process for all of us, and this has been another step in the journey.
How about you – how well do your kids take care of that expensive piece of hardware they have in their back pocket?