Who’s Calling? Teaching Your Child Phone Safety

Now more than ever, children have access to phones, often while unsupervised. Because of that, children and their parents face more threats through callers seeking to steal identities, information, or even your children. Predators and other unscrupulous types prey on unsuspecting and inexperienced children for opportunities to inflict harm. Here are some tips to train your children in safely answering phone calls.

Don’t Talk to Strangers

This admonition applies to phone calls as well as encounters at the front door or in a public place. Provide your children with a list of your work and cell phone numbers. If a phone call does not come from one of those numbers, the caller may be a stranger. With a list of valid phone numbers, your children can become suspicious about someone claiming to be a family member or friend of the family.

Avoid the Bait

Predators can lure your children with messages that their parents have asked them to come to a particular place. For such a call, your child should first ask for the name of the caller. If there is no name or identity from the caller, your child should assume it is a scam.

Your child should call you for verification of the message. Ask your child for the phone number, the time of the call and what was asked of the child.

Some scams occur via callers who impersonate government agents. This often includes a purported call from the “Internal Revenue Service” threatening jail if you do not pay taxes. Included in the call is a demand to furnish your credit card or checking account information to pay the taxes. The Internal Revenue Service does not collect taxes by phone. If you owe, the IRS will send official notice by mail. Tell your child that an official organization really is calling, they will want to talk to you, not your child.

The Unknown Number

When an unknown number calls, especially if they call repeatedly, use an unknown phone number public directory to learn the caller’s identity. Such a tool conducts a reverse phone number lookup. If the number is publicly available, the service will display the name, address and other public information associated with the number. This public information could even include arrest and other criminal records.

With the information, you can set up your home landline or your child’s phone to block calls by the number. You might even report the information to your police or sheriff’s department to alert them to possible scams or criminal threats.

Never Say You’re Alone — and Other Things Not to Say

A burglar or predator seeks as targets homes not presently occupied by adults. Your child should never tell a caller that their parents are not home. Instead, teach them to say that their parents are not available and that they can take a message. Your child should always get the name and phone number of the caller.

Additionally, don’t allow your children to answer questions from callers. Scammers may be phishing for financial or other personal information. Generally, you should not let your children have access to credit card numbers, bank account numbers or your Social Security numbers. Without that information, the children can’t spread it. You can share it relevant information yourself with those who legitimately need it.

Privacy Settings

Reduce your child’s chances of receiving dangerous calls by setting their cell phone’s privacy settings. Deactivate the GPS location features so that posts from your children do not reveal their location. Do not allow your child to enter birth date or other personal information on social media. As an alternative, limit those who can access this data to friends and followers.

Engage with your children in the use of their phones and your home phones. Monitor their use and set the privacy controls. Make your devices, your children and yourself gatekeepers of who gets access to your children and your household.

Addy Reeds is a freelance writer from Eugene, Oregon. She discovered her passion for journalism while attending the University of Oregon. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook: @addyreeds1; https://www.facebook.com/addy.reeds

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