What You Need to Know

Mobile phones play a very big role in the lives of UK children and young people. UK research suggests that 63% of under 10 year olds and 87% of under 15s own a mobile phone with children as young as 5 reported to own one. Most children and young people consider their mobile phone to be their most important possession and cannot imagine a world without them.


What does your child use a mobile for?

The development of SMART phones has meant that mobile phones now offer far more than voice calls and text messaging. Mobile phones are now computers that are available 24 hours a day offering a variety of functions:

  • voice calls
  • texting
  • face-timing
  • taking, sending and sharing photographs and videos
  • playing music and games
  • surfing the Internet
  • accessing social networks such as Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, Twitter
  • sharing their location through GPS (Global Positioning System).


The benefits of your child owning a mobile phone


The most obvious benefit for you as a parent is that you can stay in touch with your child and they can contact you if they need to. Through voice calls, texts and face-timing you can know where your child is and your child can know that they are never more than a phone call away from help, whether calling you or the emergency services.


Communication and information sharing: 

Children and young people use their mobile phones mostly for social interaction with friends. They communicate and share information with each other through voice calls and texting but also by pictures and videos through websites such as Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube.

Such interaction between friends and peers is now a normal part of life and it is important that children and young people are able to make use of technology such as mobile phones in order to be able to participate fully in our modern, technology-filled society.


Information resource:

The capabilities of SMART phones have meant that children and young people now have the Internet at their fingertips which is a fantastic resource. They are able to access a variety of information in a matter of seconds. This can be up to date news about their favourite sport or band as well as educational information needed in order to complete school work. Involvement with the world around them and the ability to find answers to any question they may have is highly beneficial to their development and learning.



Most phones have GPS (Global Positioning System) which tells the user their exact location wherever they are. This can be really useful to your child and to you as parent/s. If your child is unsure of how to get somewhere or lost, GPS can pinpoint their location on their mobile map and tell them how to get to where they want to go. They could also share their location with you if need be.

As a parent you may feel anxious and even scared to let your child walk to school or play outside in your garden, street or community park. Your child may be frightened to leave the house with or without you because they are worried about being the victims of anti-social behaviour.

You may be concerned about the affect anti-social behaviour outside your home is having while your child is at home, for example the affect of noise outside on their ability to relax, concentrate on school work or sleep at night. The general deterioration of the area you live in as a result of anti-social behaviour may also be worrying you with regard to the general safety of your child/children.

People causing anti-social behaviour can put their own lives at risk as well as others. Your child may be behaving in an anti-social manner in your community and the risks and consequences that he/she may face are worrying you. You may not know how to help.


The risks and dangers of mobile phones

Mobile phones offer many benefits and uses. However, as parents it is important that you know the risks and dangers so you can ensure your children know how to use them safely as there can be dangers to owning and using a mobile phone.


Safety dangers


Unfortunately the ownership of a mobile phone means that your child could be the target of thieves. Having a mobile phone dramatically increases a child’s risk of being mugged.

Make sure that you talk to your child about doing things to prevent theft such as not keeping their phone in a place where it can be seen easily e.g. back pocket or in a car. Suggest that they don’t use their phone in busy public places.

In case their phone is stolen it is a good idea that your child has key numbers written down so that if they are not with you they can contact you or someone they trust. You must then report the theft to the Police and call the network provider who can block their phone so that it cannot be used. It is also a good idea that your child sets a password to open their phone so that the thieves cannot access their information or use their phone before it is blocked.

Road dangers

Children and young people can be less attentive to traffic when using their phones. Talk to your child about not using their phone at all when crossing roads.

Child protection dangers

Children are vulnerable and may knowingly or unknowingly expose themselves to danger when using mobiles particularly due to the Internet.  Mobile phones are essentially mini-computers that are available to your child anytime they want and therefore all the risks that apply to internet use now apply to mobile phones.

The most worrying and extreme risk associated with the Internet is grooming. This is the activity of a criminal minority who use social networking services to befriend a child with the intention of sexually harming them. For more information on grooming please click on the link: INTERNET SAFETY


Communication and information sharing dangers


The ability for children and young people to constantly communicate via calls, texts, emails and through social networking sites can have disadvantages. Mobile phones and their Internet capabilities provide more ways for bullies to torment their victims at any time. 

Sending messages or images using mobile phones, the Internet or other forms of digital communication to hurt, threaten or frighten someone is defined as cyberbullying. Harassment, malicious communications and in some cases hate crime laws can protect your child if they are being cyberbullied. 

It is important that you talk to your child about possible cyberbullying.  Encourage them to come to you or to someone they trust if they feel as though they are being bullied. 

If you know that your child is suffering because of cyberbullying you can report it at their school, to their School Community Police Officer and online through CEOP (www.ceop.police.uk). It is also a good idea to save the messages or pictures that have been sent from the bullies.  For more information on cyberbullying, harassment, malicious communications and hate crime click on the following links;





Unsuitable contacts (dangers)

Children and young people can be at risk of grooming when they own their own mobile phone. The anonymity provided by the Internet, means that adults posing as children can ask children to add them to their contact or ‘friend’ lists on their social networking pages.

Recent surveys have shown that many children have a worrying amount of cyber ‘friends’ that are not known to them in real life. Talk to your child about only adding and accepting ‘friend’ requests from people they know. 

Also make sure they know to tell you or someone they trust if they have received any messages that make them feel uncomfortable such as sexual chat, being asked to do something that feels wrong or meet up with someone. Always report suspected grooming to the Police or the child protection charity NSPCC. For more information click on the following links: INTERNET SAFETY


Sharing personal information (dangers)

It is strongly advised not to allow your child to give out personal information online. Make sure they know not to give information such as their full name, age, address, email, phone number, name of school etc to someone they don’t know. It is advisable to help your child set up accounts on various social networking sites so that you can ensure that they only share basic information needed to open an account. For more information click on the link: INTERNET SAFETY



A troubling trend has emerged amongst teenagers known as sexting. Sexting has been defined as posting online or sending sexual messages or naked or semi-naked photos/video clips by means of any digital device.

Once an indecent image is sent, there is no way of retrieving it or controlling where it goes. This can have serious consequences. Pictures of such nature can be shared amongst peer groups leading to humiliation or can be used to bully or harass. There is always a risk that such images could be exploited by ending up in the hands of an offender. Additionally, the sender, as well as the recipient, can face charges for possession of an indecent image of a child.

If you think your child may be sexting, talk to them about the dangers. Remind them that such images are permanent and that they could end up anywhere. Advise your child that if they receive an indecent image or text from someone not to send the image on to others. Make sure that they know they must report it to a responsible adult.

CEOP have recently launched a campaign, 'Nude Selfies: What Parents and Carers Need to Know'. This is a series of four short animated films for parents and carers offering advice on how to help keep their children safe from the risks associated with sharing nude and nearly nude images - www.youtube.com/user/ceop

Picture sending, uploading, sharing and posting (dangers)

Many of the networking sites allow users to take a picture on their phone and instantly upload to the site as a post. Any picture taken can be shared in this way and to many social networking sites at once. Within seconds a picture your child takes of him/herself can be uploaded for anyone connected to their network page to see. In some cases these pictures can be available for anyone to see as many of the photo-sharing social networking services legally own the picture once it has been uploaded and therefore can be taken and used elsewhere. A shocking 88% of pictures shared and posted online are taken and used elsewhere. 

With such information in mind it is vital that you discuss with your child about the pictures they post online. It is important that they ask themselves whether it is a picture they wouldn’t mind anyone seeing. Any picture could be seen by a member of their family, a future employer, or even, in some cases, in the possession of an offender.


Information resource dangers

Exposure to inappropriate material

One of the main risks to your child using the Internet on their phone is that he/she may be exposed to inappropriate material. 

The most obvious concern is material that is age-inappropriate. Pornography can be easily found on the Internet and often even without looking for it. Material that is violent or hateful in nature is also a concern considering the vulnerability of children and young people. The danger is that exposure to such material can encourage behaviour and activity that is inappropriate, dangerous or possibly illegal.


Illegal behaviour

Some young people may find themselves in chat rooms or contributing to forums that encourage extreme political, racist or sexual views. Behaviours that start out as harmless fun, such as voicing a different opinion to another member of a chat room can escalate into something more serious.


Illegal activity

Online gambling, suicide sites, sites selling weapons or drugs, and sites with information on making drugs or bombs are easily accessible on the Internet and are of great concern when considering a young audience. Involvement in identity theft or in the buying and selling of stolen goods are also possible risks.

As a parent it is important that you talk to your child about the inappropriate material they may come across when using the Internet. Let them know that they can come to you if they are worried about something. It is a good idea to take an interest in what they do online. For example, what websites are they looking at on their phone and which chat rooms or forums are they participating in?

All mobile phone providers offer free parental control services. It is advisable to have these controls activated so you can manage what your children can view on their phones.

Location sharing dangers

The GPS function available on most phones is used in many ways that can pose a risk to your child. The fact that your child can pinpoint exactly where they are can be highly beneficial but dangers can arise if the wrong people can access this information.



Tracking software, applications and devices can show the location of a phone by using the phone number.

Such capabilities were initially designed to recover lost mobile phones. Sadly such devices can be misused by those intending to harm your child.



GPS functions are also being used on social networking sites where pictures and videos are shared. When your child uploads a picture or video from their phone to sites such as Facebook, they are also uploading the location that the photograph or video was taken. This is due to ‘GeoTagging’, a process of adding geographical identification data to photos and videos. This means that others that view the image can access this information. On some networking sites the location of pictures uploaded are even shown on a map. If your child is uploading pictures or videos onto their social pages without the right privacy settings, or onto sites where anyone can see their pictures and location information, this is alarming.


Location-based social networking

There are social networking sites that are purely used for sharing location from mobile devices. Foursquare for example, allows users to ‘check in’ at venues using the site or device specific application - ’app’, by selecting from a list of venues the application locates nearby. Facebook has also launched a feature called 'Places' that also lets users ‘check in’ to Facebook using a mobile to let all the friends listed on their social network know where they are at that moment.

If you are worried about the risks associated with GPS talk to your child about the dangers and help them change the settings on their mobile and on each social networking site. You can protect your child by turning GPS off on their phone. This will disable the GPS location for all purposes except 999. On the privacy settings page of each social network you can restrict who sees location information. On Facebook for example, you can restrict the feature ‘Places’ to only allow certain people to see your childs location when they ‘Check in’. You can also turn off the location button in the sharing tool which shares the general location of all your childs’ posts.

The following link is a short clip giving advice on what parents can do.



Over usage

Mobile phones have so many functions that it comes as no surprise that children want to spend a lot of time using them. Some reports show that teenagers may be spending up to six hours a day on their mobile, talking, texting, using the Internet, playing music and games. It has been reported that as many as 8 out of 10 children are now addicted to their mobile phones.

It is important to set mobile phone restrictions for your child. Rules such as not allowing mobiles in bedrooms at night and mobile free time before bed are good ideas.