At least 1/3 of the ways a cell phone can be used to cyberbully someone involve taking control of someone’s cell phone. They do it by grabbing it when the owner isn’t looking. They reprogram contacts, change speed-dial settings, erase music, photos, videos and games, swap SIM cards, send nasty messages that appear to be from the victim, forwarding private stored images to themselves, buying expensive downloads, prank calling someone or calling China.
Keep an eye on your phone! Keeping your cell phone secure is crucial. Leaving it on your lunch tray when you go back for another drink, or in your jacket pocket draped over your chair make it an easy target for cyberbullies who want to have some fun at your expense. Know where it is at all times. And don’t trust your friends to do it for you. While your friends may be very trustworthy, sometimes the temptation of a “practical joke” or secret resentment may be more than they can handle. And you have made it easy for them to make you this afternoon’s entertainment. Seventy percent of the students polled by Teenangels reported that cyberbullying came from “friends.”
Lock it up! Passwords and auto-locks are a pain sometimes. They slow things down. But if you use them, the extra few seconds will pay off if your phone is lost, stolen or in the hands of a cyberbully trying to use it against you. Most lock codes are limited to numerals (although iPhone will allow numbers and letters now). It’s hard to be secure with four numbers. But if you are careful and don’t use four numbers that are easy to guess or a code everyone knows you use, you can make it much harder to break into your phone. And that little extra bother might make a big difference. Set it to auto-lock if not in use for 1 minute and if your smartphone allows for additional password protections, use them.
Back it up! If your cell phone is lost, stolen or reprogrammed, it can be a disaster. Sometimes cyberbullies will exchange your SIM card with that of another student they are also cyberbullying. Or they reset the defaults and take your phone back to its original settings, erasing all data, content and contacts. Having a backup makes it easy to take back your cell phone life easily. It also works when you leave your cell phone in your soon-to-be-laundered jean’s pocket or lose it at the mall. Many cell phone service providers offer a free backup service. There are some free and low-cost apps for that too. Make it a weekly practice if you do it manually, or an auto-middle of the night setting otherwise. (While you are at it, suggest your parents and other family members back up their phones too.)
Sharing isn’t good! Many students share their cell phones with friends. This is becoming even more common with so many students on unlimited texting, data and calling plans. If you are going to share your cell phone with someone, unlock it yourself and try and keep your code private. Then check the text and call log afterwards. If something goes wrong, you will have to answer to your parents or the authorities. You’re entitled to know what others are doing with your phone. And set rules and let your friends know, in advance, what those rules are. It’s your phone. You’re allowed.
The 4 Ps – Don’t store anything that you don’t want your Parents, Principal, a Predator or the Police to see, read or find out about on your cell phone. If you have a photo you don’t want others to see, delete it from your phone, or password protect it. If someone sends you a photo you don’t want, delete it (or report it before you do).