News, reviews & trends for fathers – a contemporary parent’s perspective.
It’s the most common question about kids and technology that we’re asked as high-tech parenting experts: At what age should you buy your kid a cell phone or smartphone? The answer: Unfortunately, as we recently explained to Parenting magazine, there’s no magic number – it’s largely a function of family need, children’s maturity level and both how well-equipped that you feel your children are to make good decisions and the safety tools that you’ve put in place to catch them if they should stumble.
However, in the interest of provide a succinct answer that will be of the most service, let’s see if we can summarize. In short, while it won’t be right for every household, many parents first introduce a cell phone to kids around age 13. While some households lean a little younger, this is a fairly reasonable starting point if you’re looking for an opening guideline. That said, when you really should introduce a mobile device to kids’ lives is when there’s actually a meaningful, pressing need – e.g. when they’ll be outside of easy contact, and you absolutely, positively need to keep in contact with them, or be able to communicate on-demand should an emergency arise.
A few other points we share with parents when speaking on this topic:
- Consider buying a cell phone that dials only your contact number if and when kids need to come home alone. Prepaid cell phones can also let you limit call times and features, restrict Internet usage, prevent access to unwanted features, and monitor overall usage, and usage patterns.
- If you’re concerned about receiving unexpectedly large bills, or kids’ Internet activity, opt out of texting or endless data plans and choose a basic feature phone that forgoes bells and whistles such as downloadable apps, unlimited Web browsing and GPS tracking to limit children’s online interactions.
- Always read the manual, research and go hands-on with phones, smartphones, tablet PCs or any high-tech device that provides VoIP or digital calling functionality before you hand them over to children. It’s imperative to know the ins and outs of the cell phone you’re considering for your child before you give it to him or her – a good rule of thumb for any high-tech device for that matter.
- Consider restricting cell phone usage to only taking place in your presence until kids are mature enough to handle calls, texting and online interactions on their own.
- Be certain to monitor cell phone activity and usage, and review your bill regularly for suspicious calls, activity or communications made when mobile handsets are supposed to have been shut down, e.g. 3AM on a Tuesday night.
For more information on kids and cell phones, including some of the latest statistics and other digital parenting experts’ input, check out our friends at Parenting magazine, and the in-depth look they provide on the subject.
Technology is synonymous with viruses, unfortunately, and just like home computers, our smartphones aren’t totally immune from the undesirable creatures that lurk in the digital jungle. In many regards, in fact, our cell phones now function like small PCs: They’re remarkably convenient, they’re capable little machines, and you need to protect them from viruses and malware. Luckily, there several of the best smartphone anti-virus programs are free, and will work hard to keep your handset safe.
Note that for iOS mobile device users, you have less to worry about if you have an iPhone (or an iPad, or any iOS device from Apple) that’s not jailbroken. Apple keeps tight restrictions on what becomes available for download in its App Store, which means that worms, malware, viruses and Trojans aren’t as likely to slip through. The situation is different if your phone is jailbroken (meaning the iOS device has been modified to allow for greater user control, including introducing installation alternatives that let you download application without visiting the App Store). Jailbroken iOS hardware is more susceptible to viruses.
You will definitely want to consider a mobile phone antivirus software program if your phone is an Android model too. Though Google makes efforts to keep viruses and malware out of Google Play (formerly the Android Marketplace), Android app developers have far fewer restrictions on what they can develop and upload to the marketplace. On one hand, this allows developers to exercise more creative freedom than what’s possible on the App Store. On the other hand, this makes it easier for troublemakers to do their thing. Though Google’s “Bouncer” service automatically scans Google Play for viruses, it’s not foolproof, so if you own an Android phone, you should still be vigilant.
There are several free ways you can protect your mobile phone from viruses and malware:
Avast! Free Mobile Security – Avast!’s free browser anti-virus is a popular name in computer protection, and that favorable reputation extends to its mobile anti-virus offering as well. Avast!’s mobile security provides protection against malicious downloads, and users can also install anti-theft features, a web shield, and take advantage of a privacy report.
IKARUS Mobile Security Lite – IKARUS Lite provides free and thorough protection against mobile viruses, spyware, malware, and Trojans. Moreover, it’s resource efficient (so it won’t bog down your phone), and its interface is user-friendly.
Lookout Mobile Security – Lookout’s free security protects you from malicious software, and it also provides features that let you secure your device and manage/back up your data using the web. Furthermore, you can utilize Lookout to help you find your phone if its lost, and/or remotely wipe out data if the worst happens.
Kaspersky Mobile Security – Kaspersky provides free virus scan and free malware removal tools for Android, Blackberry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile phones. For ease of use, you can search for your phone’s model on the Kaspersky website.
Dr. Web Mobile Security Suite – You can trust a doctor, right? Dr. Web is light, user-friendly, and will even protect your phone against unknown threats. You can also use the program to protect against unwanted incoming calls. Dr. Web Mobile Security Suite is available for Android, Symbian, and Windows Mobile.
For more information on how to protect your smartphone from viruses, visit:
What’s the Best Android Anti-Virus? on PCAdvisor
As recently pointed out in a cheekily-named article for Inc. magazine, many of today’s top executive assistants can be found in the form of smartphone and tablet PC apps. And while there’s no replacement for the real deal – a great personal assistant is a rare and valuable find – it is worth noting: These iPhone, iPad and Android alternatives can help those on a budget, or hoping to manage their own appointments, tame their inborn ADD, or life’s increasingly hectic demands. Looking for the top apps to help you organize your work and life? Following is a brief excerpt of several recommended applications:
Tame the clutter of your professional life. Evernote lets you take virtual memos on-demand. You can store text, photos, voice recordings (even and add location tagging) and automatically synchronize updates across your computer, smartphone, and tablet. Keyword, tag, and text searches make for easy information retrieval.
A graphical organizer that lets you save notes, build to-do lists, and assign color-coded tags, fonts, icons, and backgrounds for more effective cataloguing and categorization. From travel itineraries to conference schedules, you can plot it all on a nicely-appointed calendar, and add photos, maps, sketches, and assorted images. You can also create folders and assign unique passwords for faster grouping and storage.
This popular list-making utility keeps you from forgetting tasks and outstanding action items. You can organize deliverables by priority or due date, and receive reminders via email, SMS, instant messenger, etc. Big plus: easy integration with mobile, Web, and desktop apps (Gmail, Google Calendar, Outlook, iCal, etc.) and synchronization across multiple devices.
For more, you can read the full article at Inc. magazine. And as a special exclusive for TechSavvy readers, you can also find more recommendations on the top organization apps for life and work at the following resources:
And remember – while there’s no replacing a real PA with a virtual stand-in, at least these options can tide you over as far as to-do and office shopping lists until you can locate or afford a good one.