Cell phones are what most parents will buy a pre-teen and teenager to carry with them in order to feel that their child is safe. A cell phone allows a parent and child to stay in contact when the parent is at work or the child is in route to and from school. Cell phones once meant to be a means to provide a child with communicating with a parent in times of need or extreme emergency are quickly replacing home phones and becoming so commonplace that parents, children, and the community accept them as an accessory to one's wardrobe. People decorate their cell phones to match their daily wardrobe, with jeweled wrist straps, color coordinated skins, and even custom fit designer carrying cases. Cell phones are now as common as a purse or wallet and today it appear parents have forgotten the main reason a child has a cell phone is for safety, not convenience.
Cell phones have become a pedophiles new tool to groom a child for a meeting. Most cell phones now have access to the World Wide Web, which allows the child to surf the internet, send e-mail and instant messages through servers like AOL, Gmail, and Yahoo, and the ability to text messages back and forth on the phone itself. Cell phones differ from a computer in that on the computer there is a history that allows a parent to be able to see where a child has been and perhaps avert danger before it happens. The cell phone unfortunately, once the person deletes the information in the text messaging logs, it is gone forever, and there is no way to retrieve that information again. This means the child can delete any messages sent to the phone by someone the child does not want the parent to know is communicating with the child once the child reads the message. A parent may never realize a sex offender is contacting their child until it is too late and there is physical contact.
Parents need realize that since cell phones are able to surf the web, it allows children access to all aspects of the internet, including the darker side of pornography. There are many ways a child sex offender maybe using your child's cell phone as a tool to groom your child for a physical encounter. The most common is through texting, which is easy to do quietly, in the dark and late at night, when parents are sleeping and believe their child is safe at home. In addition, be aware that cell phones can also accept pictures, including nudity or pornography. Standard on many cell phones are cameras, which child sex offenders can and will try to persuade a child to use to take and send pictures showing the child in compromising positions.
As always, the best defense against sexual exploitation is to educate children. Talk to your children about the proper use of the cell phone. If you suspect your child is in a situation he or she cannot handle, then ask what is going on and ask to see the phone unexpectedly. Read the text, look at the pictures, and ask the phone company for a record of all numbers calling or that your child is calling. Call and talk to his or her friends or their parents and get a feel for what is going on. If things do not feel right, ask for help from local law enforcement. There are now cyber crime units in most police departments.
A disconnected cell phone still by law has to allow access to 911. So do not through away those old cell phones. Keep the cell phone charged, and if needed keep the cell phone at home or in a car and if there is an emergency dial 911 for help. A word of caution when dialing 911 on a cell phone the 911 dispatcher is unable to tell your location, compared to when some one calls 911 from a landline. When calling 911 on a cell phone the caller must give the 911 dispatcher as much descriptive information about their location including mile markers, visible signs on the road way or town, or the name of the road you are located so that the 911 dispatcher can get help to you as quickly as possible.
Did you know texting can be turned off be contacting your cell phone service provider? Parents need to remember that cell phones are a privilege not a necessity.