12 DEFENDERS: Smartphone Safety - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

12 DEFENDERS: Smartphone Safety

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Cell phone carriers and software manufacturers offer several monitoring options for parents. Cell phone carriers and software manufacturers offer several monitoring options for parents.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - 13-year-old Alyssa's parents want her to have a cell phone. Her mother says it reassures her that Alyssa is safe.

"I like knowing that I've got easy access to her," said Kelli Flanagan.

But Flanagan also admitted that a smartphone could open up her child to online predators.

"All the bullying that goes on, the texting bullying and the sexting and all that," she explained.

Law enforcement officers agree. In fact, deputies with the Henry County Sheriff's Office arrested several men just last year for allegedly enticing a 15-year-old girl for sex.

"These predators use a child and then throw them away," said Sheriff Will Maddox.

"In other words, the child could easily lose their life when they are meeting people on the Internet who they do not know."

That's why cell phone carriers offer programs that help parents monitor their children's accounts.

For an extra fee, most carriers allow you to limit the time of day a cell phone can be used and the numbers it can call.  

"If you have those types of features, you know what they can and cannot access," said Marques January of Verizon Wireless.

January says there are also programs that allow parents to see their childrens' location, using the phone's GPS capabilities.

Here's a link to information about Verizon's monitoring services.

But the services offered by cell phone carriers are only the tip of the iceberg. You can get even more detailed information about your child's cell phone use, by purchasing special software online.

Monitoring software like Phone Sheriff and My Mobile Watchdog - once installed on a phone - allow parents to see a log of their child's phone calls, text messages, emails, photos, and websites visited.

A program called MobiStealth goes even farther. Some say it's an invasion of privacy, allowing parents to record phone conversations and even remotely activate a phone's microphone in order to eavesdrop on their child.

The programs require monthly monitoring fees of $50 or more.


But most parents who spoke with WSFA 12 News said their children under the age of 18 do not have a right to privacy. So they would consider using the software.

For those parents, experts say they should inform their children about the monitoring and have a discussion about the dangers online.


Free monitoring solutions

There are also some FREE apps that help parents monitor their children, but they are not as comprehensive as the pay versions. One of the simplest and most popular apps is called Lookout. It only addresses security and lost phone concerns, but it may be all a parent needs.

Lookout's automatic virus scanner checks downloads and sniffs out malware and spyware, the sort of attacks that can result in identity theft. You can also find a lost phone on a map and have contacts backed up to the Web. 

Other free apps (with a variety of names) help located and track a cell phone's location. Apple's version is called Find My iPhone. 

Search for them in your online App Store or Marketplace. 

Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved. WSFA 12 News.
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