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Phone Safety Tips for Business and Personal Use

Today’s Phone Technology Requires Responsible Use

For many people, the cellphone/smartphone has become an important extension of both their personal and professional lives. While it has been common place for adults and adult professionals to carry cellphones for years, it has also become more common than not for teens and even younger kids to have their own cellphones. There are many benefits to this trend for both the children and their parents, as kids can talk to their friends without conflict regarding home phone use. Parents are also always a phone call away in the event of an emergency situation. Despite the positive benefits to wide use of cellphones, there is a potential bad side to having a cellphone that can be dangerous and even fatal. Prior to buying a cellphone for minors in the family, parents will want to understand what the negative aspects are and should discuss them with their kids. In addition to the risks to children, there are a number of safety concerns that adults should heed for themselves.

Cell Phone Statistics

The latest research by Pew Internet showed that by the end of the year in 2012, some 87 percent of American adults were cell phone owners. A majority of the people with cell phones are between the ages of 18 and 49, while there is only a one percent difference between the percentage of men versus women who own cell phones. Of the people who use cell phones, 79% of them use their text messaging feature. A 2010 study by Pew found that 75% of kids who were between the age of 12 and 17 had cell phones. When it comes to risky behavior, 70% of drivers who are between the ages of 28 and 64 admit to driving and talking, while 30% admit to texting while driving.

Pew Internet: Mobile
Five Eye-Opening Stats That Show the World is Going Mobile
WebWiseKids: Facts and Statistics on Teens and Technology
CNET: 2011 Ends With Almost Six Billion Mobile Phone Subscriptions
CBS News: One in Twenty Crashes Linked to Cell Phones
CDC: Distracted Driving – How Big is The Problem
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute: Cell Phone Use – General Statistics
Distracted Driving Statistics
Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Cell Phone Statistics That May Surprise You

Texting

Texting has become one of the most popular forms of communication, particularly among teens. One of the reasons for this is that texting affords teens a certain level of privacy that cannot be had when talking on the cellphone. It also allows them to talk at times or in places that they would otherwise be unable to, such as the library, while in class, or at night. Texting also allows teens to say or do things that they should not without alerting their parents. Sexting, for example, is a common version of texting. With sexting a text takes on a sexual nature not only in terms of words, but also pictures. Teens who participate in sexting often send images of themselves partially or fully unclothed as a part of a message. These images are frequently shared with others and can quickly circulate around a school, be put online and be viewed by adults from anywhere in the world. In addition to sexting, texting can be a life-threatening activity when it takes a person’s mind off of activities that require one’s undivided attention such as driving a vehicle. Driving while texting, as well as driving while talking on a cellphone, is a form of distracted driving. In many states this is illegal and can result in heavy fines.

Parents or guardians should discuss the dangers of these activities with minors prior to giving them a phone. Clear rules must be established regarding what is and is not an acceptable use of a cellphone. Many families even enter into contracts in which teens agree to follow rules set by their parents. In discussing sexting and texting while driving, parents will want to make certain that teens understand the consequences of their actions should they choose to do them. Researchers have found that this type of behavior causes a 37% reduction in brain activity that is required to drive a car. As a result, teens who text while driving may cause an accident or fail to avoid one due to the distraction. They may injure, disable or kill another driver, passenger or pedestrian. In states where there are laws forbidding texting or cellphone use while driving, a teen may face fines and/or the loss of their license. The consequences of sexting can last a lifetime and affect all areas of one’s life. People who receive or share nude photos may face criminal action, the person in the photo may attract the unwanted attention of another person or their nude image may appear on porn websites. Once online the images will never go away and may surface when applying for a job or may affect a future relationship.

Safe America Foundation: Texting and Cell Phone Safety Tips
Driving While Texting Six Times More Dangerous Than Driving While Drunk
Car and Driver: Texting While Driving – How Dangerous is it?
Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center: Texting Tips for Parents and Kids
Colorado State University Extension: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren – The Dangers of Texting and Driving
Carnegie Mellon University: Texting and Walking
Hyper-texting and Hyper-Networking Pose New Health Risks for Teens
Cyber-Bullying – What is is it and What Can We Do About it? Cyberbullying – A Social Problem
Internet, Mobile Phones, and Texting Safety Tips for Kids
New York State Division of Criminal Justice services: Sexting – Advice for Teens and Young Adults
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin – Sexting Risky Actions and Overreactions
The Dangers of Sexting
Be Aware of the Dangers of “Sexting”(PDF)
Hillsborough County; Preventing Sexting

Predators

Individuals who seek out and contact kids over the Internet and electronic media are known as cyber-predators. Often these people are sexual predators who seek out teens and children either under the guise of being another kid, or by befriending them. They do this by listening, understanding and creating a feeling of trust. In some cases they send gifts or attempt to establish a romantic relationship by flattering teens and making them feel special. Kids with smartphones can download applications, or apps, that make it easy for predators to come into contact with kids. These apps range from social networking to apps that have geographical location services for phones that are GPS enabled. These types of applications may also be used by predators to stalk other adults. Even without special apps, predators commonly target kids by using text messaging or through online chat rooms. To prevent this from occurring adults, relatives, or guardians must monitor teens’ messages for suspicious activity and contact officials if necessary. It is also important to pay attention to what new applications are being downloaded to the phone.

CNN: Cells, Texting Give Predators Secret Path to Kids
Child Predators Finding Victims Through Texting Apps.
Random Texting: A New Scheme for Predators to Reach Teens (PDF)
NetSmartz: Predators, Tips and Discussion Starters
Internet Safety and Substance Abuse Guide for Teens: Are You Protecting Yourself Online? (PDF)
Homeland Security – Cyber Predators
How Predators Use Technology (PDF)
The San Diego Union Tribune: Sexual Predators Using Cellphones to Prey on Kids
Teen Safety in Cyberspace

Business Phone Scams

Another area in which cell phones are commonly used is to create and perpetrate scams. Telephone scams have been, and continue to be a source of fraudulent action for criminals. Courtesy of cell phones, it is easier than ever for telephone scam artists to reach consumers and businesses. For business owners there are certain scams that may affect them more than the average consumer. Because the methods and list of scams are ever changing and growing, there are many potential scams to review. A common telephone scam that has affected many businesses over the years has been what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calls the 90# Telephone Scam. This is a scam in which a caller claiming to work for the telephone company asks the employee who answers the phone to dial 90#. This is meant to assist in the diagnosis of a problem with the phone line. What this does however is enable the caller to make phone calls illegally using the business line. In order to avoid scams such as this one it is important for businesses to understand how their phone company works when making repairs or checking phone lines. It is also important that employees are trained to ask questions, double check by calling the phone company or whatever type of company is being used as a front for the scam. The employee should also get a phone number and a name before hanging up. He or she should never dial an outside line before checking the authenticity of the call first. If the identity of the caller cannot be verified or if it is found to be false, the business should contact law enforcement to file a complaint.

BBB Warns Small Business Owners to Beware of Telephone Relay Fraud
National Consumers League: Business Directory Scams Preying on Small Business Owners
FCC Guide: Don’t Fall for the 90# Telephone Scam
Fake Telemarketers Targeting Oregon Businesses
AARP – Small Business Big Scam
Telephone Scams – Telemarketing Fraud