Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Digital Citizenship: Cell Phone Self-Defense

We’ve seen how many ways cell phones can be abused to cyberbully someone. When unattended, it can be reprogrammed or used to do things that will end up with the target being blamed. And the cell phone can be stolen, lost or damaged and all of its data lost or misused. The cyberbullies and crooks can access your address book, erase photos and music. Cyberbullies can even apply filters without the target’s knowledge. Some malicious code is now being designed for cell phones, too. And with Internet access, many smart phones are vulnerable to standard malware and viruses.

So, when cell phones are so important to us, store lots of our favorite media and information and cost as much as they do, why aren’t we more careful?

Here are a few tips to consider when it comes to using cell phone self-defense:

·         If your cell phone has password capability, use a password (nothing too exotic that you won’t be able to easily remember). Remember Parry’s password mantra “Easy to remember – Hard to guess!”

·         Lock your phone to avoid pocketbook or “butt” calls.

·         Don’t lay it down and forget about it. It’s too easily lost, grabbed by a cyberbully or stolen.

·         If you have a picture or video you wouldn’t want a parent, principal, predator or the police to see, don’t store it on your cell phone. (Better yet, don’t take it at all!)

·         Remember that lots of “free” movies, music and games from P2P sites may cost you more in legal damages and lawsuits than they are worth. Pay for what you use.

·         Don’t download anything that might contain malicious code, like viruses, spyware and malware.

·         Don’t keep your schedule on your cell phone without password protecting it. Do they same with address books and images. (This is important enough that we mentioned it twice!)

·         Keep your cell phone in a safe place when playing contact sports, taking a bath or washing your car. Few cell phones are water proof.

·         Backup your cell phone, so if lost or stolen you still have the contacts, schedules and images you don’t want to lose.

·         Learn how to use the block features to block unwanted incoming texts and calls.

·         Check and see if parental and privacy features are available for your equipment for younger users.

·         Consider buying insurance for the cell phones used by preteens and young teens, especially. They are lost, stolen or broken far more than adult-used cell phones.

·         Know your plan. Free nights and weekends? When does “night” start and end? What about “weekends?” How many texts can you send and when does the new month start? Because you can now take your number with you when you change cell phone providers, you may not know that your BFF has moved from Sprint to Verizon. That means she may not qualify for any in-network calling rates. Find the best plan for your money and needs.

·         If you are passing a cell phone down to someone else, make sure they start fresh and your info stays private. Ask the cell phone manufacturer or the carrier how to reformat the cell phone, so the data can’t be recovered. And back it up somewhere else before you delete it forever.

These will help you get started and help you decide which services and equipment to buy and how to use them. Still confused? No problem, just find a local 8-year-old to help you figure out how they work. J

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Parry Aftab is interested in hearing ideas and questions about digital safety, privacy and cybersense. Please do not advertise or promote services or products or include a link, video or image in your comment.

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Note that Parry Aftab does not respond to legal questions and cannot address specific issues about reported abuse.She cannot be retained as legal counsel online, and any prospective client must sign a retainer agreement before becoming a legal client of Ms. Aftab. Any legal discussions are educational and informational only and anything submitted may be made public on this blog.

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