Parental Controls for Cell Phones
By Paul O’Reilly from TheOnlineMom

As the summer break comes to an end and families prepare for the start of a new school year, thousands of parents are bracing themselves for the inevitable urgent demands for a new cell phone. Maybe it’s a fourth or fifth grader clamoring for his first-ever phone, or perhaps it’s a middle-school student wondering why she’s the only one in her class without a smartphone. Whatever the reasons behind the appeals, parents had better be ready!

If you have a younger child and you decide that he or she is ready for that first phone, then you might want to investigate some of the parental controls that are now commonly available. All the main cellular providers have various levels and types of parental controls. Usually, some kind of family plan is necessary but this is not always the case.

Parental controls for cell phones fall into three distinct categories:

  • Content filters
    These allow parents to set filters for what multimedia content their children can download to their phones. While content filters are more important for smartphones with full web access and video download capability, most cell phones now have some kind of browser. However, parents should be aware that content filters are not foolproof and inappropriate content can also be received via text, IM or e-mail.
  • Usage controls
    Usage controls put the parent in charge of a child’s cell phone usage, regulating the number of calls and text messages. They can also block certain numbers or restrict outgoing calls to a pre-approved list, and even disable the phone during certain times of day, like school hours or after 9 pm.
  • Location and monitoring controls
    These can be used to monitor a child’s whereabouts through built-in GPS systems. Some systems can even send alerts when a child’s cell phone moves out of a pre-agreed zone or range.

Read the rest of this article, including the specific parental tools available from each major service carrier, here.