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Tips for raising digitally responsible citizens

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The Internet can be intimidating with headlines about hackers, cyberbullying and phishing scams. June is National Internet SafetyMonth, giving parents the opportunity to talk to their kids about these issues and the importance of safe Internet use. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, 92 percent of teens report going online daily, with 24 percent noting they go online 'almost constantly.'

While devices such as the iPhone 6s and iPad Pro help families feel secure and stay connected, users of these high-tech devices need to know how to avoid compromising their personal safety online, and parents can play a key role in guiding mobile usage. According to a recent U.S.Cellularsurvey, the average age a child is getting their first phone is 13, with safety cited as the main reason. Seventy percent of respondents note that they always or frequently monitor their child's cell phone use, while almost three quarters have rules about their child's cell phone usage.

The latest mobile devices operating on a high-quality 4G LTE coverage can keep families better connected to each other and the internet whether here at home in Bangor or while traveling this summer across the country. At U.S.Cellular, we encourage parents to take the time to have open discussions about what works best for their family, and we want to be a resource as parents make decisions on their child's first cellphone and the related Internet use.

U.S.Cellularshares five easy tips for parents to facilitate discussion about internet use on mobile devices and to raise digitally responsible children:

Have an agreement with your children. U.S.Cellularhas created aParent-Child Agreementto help guide families' conversations about mobile phone usage. The agreement focuses onsafety and etiquette, and is customizable based on each family's specific and evolving needs.

Discuss online communications. Beyond texting, increases in the use of social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat open up new communication pathways for teens. Discuss the importance of never posting hurtful or hateful comments on others pages and always being responsible for what is said online.

Set boundaries for online sharing. Make sure children know to never share personal information online, including their name, age, address, school or passwords. Remind them to communicate only with family or friends and not to answer unknown requests or texts, click on unfamiliar links or download attachments unless they are from a trusted source.

Post photos appropriately. Today's kids are eager to capture and share photos, but many fail to grasp that once photos are online, they are part of a public space and can even be modified without their knowledge. Discuss appropriate guidelines for sharing photos with friends and alert them to never post photos that could contain information about where they live or be seen as inappropriate. It's also a good rule of thumb to not post or share photos or videos of others without their consent.

Use parental controls. TheNQ Family Guardianapp, available for $4.99 amonthfor Android devices, provides safety and security by monitoring your child's location and mobile usage. This service allows parents to review their child's calls and texts, and restrict certain websites and apps. Children can also send their parents an alert with the simple press of a button if they are in trouble or find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. For iOS users, there isa wide range of parental-control options that are automatically available in iOS 9's Settings app.

While these steps can help promote online safety today, the Internet is constantly evolving, as is the technology surrounding it, and teens also are ever changing how they consume information and interact in this digital age. To help parents stay informed and well positioned to help their teens become responsible digital citizens, local schools, police departments and other community groups offer seminars on Internet safety.

U.S.Cellularalso offers device workshops for the entire community, including those who are not U.S.Cellularcustomers, providing a great opportunity to learn more about the many features of today's smart devices and how teens may be using them to connect and engage online. Join the U.S.Cellularteam at the Brewer U.S.Cellularstore at403 Wilson StreetonSaturday, June 18from9:00 to 10:00 a.m.and at33 Mid Mall Boulevard in BangoronSaturday, June 25from8:00 to 9:00 a.m.


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