Cellphone Security: What to Do to Keep Teens Safe

Nearly three-quarters of teens have access to a smartphone. If you’re a parent, that can make it easy to stay in touch with your kids. But there’s a downside: Just having a smartphone can make your kids an easy target of cybercriminals.

Hackers target smartphones because they may contain a lot of personal data. A criminal could use that data to commit identity theft or identity fraud.

Here are six cellphone security tips that can protect your child and his or her phone.

  1. Set the screen lock. For an iPhone, you can choose a four-digit numeric PIN or an eight-character alphanumeric passcode. Newer models might include fingerprint recognition or Face ID. For an Android phone, screen locks vary by device. You can also set the phone to auto-lock after a preselected time delay so your child doesn’t have to keep reentering it.
  2. Choose a tricky passcode. Avoid obvious passcodes such as 1111, birthdays and addresses.
  3. Activate auto-delete. This cellphone security feature should be turned on to wipe out data in case the phone is lost or stolen. You can set it to wipe all the data after a specified number of failed attempts to get into the phone.
  4. Turn off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS when not in use. Hackers can tap into phones using these programs.
  5. Get the updates.Operating system updates usually include cellphone security patches, so install them right away.
  6. Download applications only from reputable sites. Whether it is an iPhone or Android, be sure to research all apps before downloading them. This includes reading the permissions to ensure you know what you are agreeing to when downloading an app.

Editor’s note: This content was lightly edited and updated on April 3, 2018.

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