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Internet Safety

Teens Use Burner Phones To Hide Online Behavior From Parents

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 12, 2019  /   Posted in Digital Parenting

How Your Teen Uses Burner Phones to Hide Online Behavior

Are you a parent that believes taking your teen’s device is a punishment?

Think again! This is one of the reasons burner phones are on the rise among young people.

As a tech-savvy parent, you’ve established rules with your teens about responsible cell phone usage and drawn up a detailed family contract. And by all accounts it seems to be working.

But teenagers can be ingenious about getting around the rules, and many of today’s teens turn to burner phones as a workaround to parental limitations. Here’s how to discover if your child has found this alternative, plus some tips on curbing the habit.

What Is a Burner Phone?

Burner phones are cheap, prepaid mobile phones you can discard once you’re done using them. They offer access to Wi-Fi and a phone number that can’t be traced to the individual using the device.

There are a few good reasons to use a burner phone. If you’re buying or selling something on Craigslist, for instance, having an untraceable number offers a degree of safety when communicating with strangers.

However, their anonymity and low cost make burner phones ideal for teenagers looking for a way to sneak around behind their parents’ backs. And that anonymity can get kids into problematic situations where they don’t have a parental lifeline to keep them safe.

Why Do Teens Turn to These Disposable Devices?

Teens consider cell phones a virtual lifeline, and many experience fear of missing out (FOMO) without them. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey found some eye-opening stats about teens and social media:

  • 81% say social media makes them feel more connected.
  • Approximately 2/3 of teens say online friends give them support in difficult times.

 Losing cell phone access as a punishment—and effectively losing access to their online networks—is one reason why teens may acquire a burner phone. But they might also buy second phones to maintain secret social media accounts. A finsta (fake Instagram), for example, is a private account where kids post content that only certain people have access to.

Teens may also turn to burners if they’re engaging in activities they think parents won’t approve of—getting involved in drugs or alcohol, or pursuing romantic relationships.

Some of these habits can be dangerous, putting kids in a place where they can be taken advantage of. Burner phones can also create a space for cyberbullying to go unnoticed, and thus unchecked. 

How Can You Know Your Child Is Using a Burner Phone?

If you’ve ever taken away your teen’s phone, you’re familiar with them pleading to get it back. If they suddenly stop doing so, that’s a hint they may be using a burner phone. Here are a few other ways to discover they’ve gotten a second phone:

  • Look for a dip in data use. Check your wireless carrier for overall data usage and details about specific applications. A decrease in visits to your teen’s favorite social media site may point to use of a burner phone.
  • Monitor your network. Learn how to check your router’s activity log, which shows browser histories and IP addresses that have accessed the internet via your network.
  • Check your child’s other apps. Burner phones aren’t the only way to communicate anonymously; there are multiple apps that let you set up a temporary number. If your child has an app like Burner or Hushed, it’s possible they’re doing something that requires anonymity—which could be a red flag. 

What Can You Do to Manage the Behavior?

  1. Maintain consistent rules of use. If you’ve gone to the trouble of setting ground rules, then stick with them and make sure the consequences for breaking them are fair and applicable to everyone in the family. Consistency equals credibility. 
  1. Help your teen set boundaries. Encourage your child to understand and embrace core values that will drive healthy online interactions. If your child can feel okay about posting online because they always consider how it will reflect upon them first, they’ll have less interest in setting up secret accounts.
  1. Reward honesty. Let your kids know they can come to you when they’ve made a mistake online, such as going to an inappropriate website. Being able to do so without risking punishment will maintain the level of communication that pays dividends in all kinds of parent-child interactions—not just those related to cell phones.

At the end of the day, this burner phone trend is more about behaviors than devices. If you can set clear expectations and have open conversations about smart phone conduct, you’ll see a lot more progress than if you focus solely on managing your kids’ access to a phone.

Read “Why Removing Your Teens’ Devices Doesn’t Always Work.”

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Contributor: Hilary Bird is a digital journalist who writes about the things that fascinate her the most: relationships, technology, and how they impact each other. As more and more people become more and more reliant on their tech devices, Hilary wants to help them stay safe and understand how these devices will reshape the way we communicate.

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Teens Are Live Streaming More Than Ever: The Security Risks

Posted by Sue Scheff on October 14, 2016  /   Posted in Digital Parenting, Internet Safety, Parenting Teens

Security Risks of Teens Live Streaming

teenlivestream

Livestreaming allows the world to be everyone’s stage. Events can be watched in real-time as the action unfolds. From a baby’s first crawl to a violent police arrest, the world watches and waits for more.

The danger, however, is that once an event is streamed live for the public, there is no going back. Adults understand the boundaries, but teens—with their brains still developing—struggle to always understand the harmful repercussions of the live stream.

Teens and tweens live online. Their world is posted on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…all the social media forums. Today’s generation of e-centric kids don’t know the meaning of true privacy. They share. Too much and too often.

The harm of livestreaming is numerous. Not only are kids and teens putting their image out for the world to see, but they also document moments that should remain private. Secrets that friends disclose might find a way online. Fights at school, also are popular via livestream.

The cell phone is Pandora’s Box. Capable of shooting pictures, capturing video and posting everything online. The boundaries blur. Teens don’t know when not to hit send.

teenlivestream2In June 2015, two teens from Utah were arrested for burglary and theft. They decided to break into an ice-cream truck and steal the ice-cream. Of course, they taped their shenanigans and livestreamed the whole crime.

A few months ago, three teens allegedly live streamed intimate acts on Facebook. In another twisted case, a girl was accused of livestreaming her friend’s rape. Both cases resulted in police investigations.

For parents, the trouble with technology and live streaming lies in the naivete of kids. Teens, tweens and younger kids do not have the capacity to always make great decisions. Their minds are in the midst of developing…they are in a mental war about right and wrong. Impulse, unfortunately, usually wins out in the fight.

Parents must talk to their kids about personal boundaries, private information and what can and should be shared online. A teen might think that a fight is cool, and because it seems cool then it should be shared. Parents need to be prepared for their kids to be in these situations…with their cell phones.

Fights, abuse and crazy things have always happened. Today, the issue is that these things are easily documented, and teens are often the ones documenting them. Fifteen years ago, teens were not all armed with individual recording devices. Now they are, and parents must prepare them for the responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with technology.

Role playing is a great way to teach kids responsibility and help them understand how to respond in a tough situation. Parents should make up cards with scenarios on them depicting scenes that a teen might see at school or in the world. Have the teen choose a card and then act it out.

When role playing, discuss how technology plays a unique role and how the consequences of an action can magnify online. Discuss with teens what is the right and wrong action according to laws in the state. Always educate teens on the laws; they must abide by them, and they can absolutely be prosecuted under them.

Use the controversy and the popularity of live streaming to also discuss personal and private information. Set boundaries as a family about what information can and cannot be shared online. Talk about oversharing. Discuss respect and what it means in friendships and families.

Teens and tweens are very much guided by their peers. However, they look to their parents for support and security. Many teens have found legal troubles from live streaming. Be open with kids about the dangers and harm of sharing too much and using the world as a stage.

Once a video live streams online, it can never be taken back. The internet is forever, and the results can be life changing in the worst ways.

*****

Contributor:  Amy Williams, a journalist and former social worker passionate about parenting and education.

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5 Ways to Protect Your Teenager Online

Posted by Sue Scheff on November 14, 2015  /   Posted in Internet Safety, Parenting Teens

Teen Online Safety

TeenOnlineSafetyAn astonishing 75 percent of teenagers have access to smartphones and 24 percent of teens go online “almost constantly.” As a parent of a teenager in this constantly evolving cyber world, it’s overwhelming and frightening thinking of all the potential threats compromising your teens digital and physical security.

A Pew Research study found that 90 percent of children have witnessed or experienced cyber bullying within the last year and a study by Drexel University found that 54 percent of minors have reported sexting.

Here are five ways to protect your teenager online:

Take Advantage of Smartphone Applications

There are a variety of free and paid applications that provide parents with a wide range of access to their teenager’s mobile phone activity.

If you’re concerned about your teen stumbling upon adult content, K9 Browser is a free application that blocks adult content and is available for smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. For more thorough access to your teen’s activity, the Norton Family Parental Control application’s paid version allows parents to see the sites their teen is visiting from the computer or mobile device but also allows you to block sites and see text messages.

Create a Contract

Before your teenager receives their first mobile device or personal computer, create a contract spelling out each of your expectations. According to the Family Online Safety Institute, almost 50 percent of teenagers are not concerned that their online reputation today will hurt future goals and 58 percent feel it is safe to post photos or intimate details online. A written and signed contract makes it very clear to your teenager what your expectations are in regard to online activity.

Stay Informed & Up-to-date

Setting up guidelines, boundaries and privacy software is not enough. The Internet and cyber criminals are changing so fast that as soon as you have a grasp on the newest social media or application and its potential threats or privacy terms, it has already evolved. To stay up-to-date on the latest cyber security news and tips, bookmark LifeLock Unlocked.

Mark All Profiles as Private

The most important takeaway for your teenager, is that nothing is temporary online. Even if they delete a post, a photo or an account, it can be easily retrieved and anyone can copy or save it. Besides filtering what he or she posts, ensure your teenager’s online profiles are private. Do not rely on the site’s default settings and adjust settings accordingly. Stress to your teen that this does not mean what he or she posts is now “safe” but it does make it more difficult for individuals to access.

Safeguards Passwords & Change Them Frequently

Identity theft is just as much of a threat for your teenager as it is for adults. Teach your teen how to choose safe and secure passwords that are changed every three to six months to ensure maximum security. Advise your teen not to share passwords with anyone besides parents or guardians.

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