Tuesday, August 7, 2012

T-Mobile Summer Safety Tips

I first attended a T-Mobile event last November.  At the time I was very unhappy with my current provider but was stuck in a contract I wasn't willing to break until April 14 of this year (yes, I know the date, and I was counting down the days).  As I learned more about T-Mobile and what they were doing that night, I figured out who my new carrier would be.

And on April 14, I signed a new contract with T-Mobile for myself and my husband.  We had been on a plan with just voice for both of us and data for me.  We upgrade to voice, unlimited text, and data for both of us.  And we're now paying 2/3 of what we were with our old carrier.  To say I'm happy would be putting it mildly.

When I was invited to another T-Mobile event a couple weeks ago focused on safety tips, I jumped at the chance.  When both Melisa and I showed up with our T-Mobile phones that we'd converted to since the last T-Mobile event, we were mini rock stars for a moment, but the focus wasn't truly on us... it was about what T-Mobile is up to.

Showing off our T-Mobile phones
Photo credit to Jyl Johnson Pattee

The wee ones aren't quite old enough for phones yet, but I've already heard some horror stories from friends of mine, and I love all the safety and monitoring features that exist now.  T-Mobile offers Family Allowances® where you can set not just a limit to how many texts or minutes allowed on a line, it also allows parents to control what hours calls can be received or made and how much money can be spent on apps.  Much as I'd love to trust the wee ones, their brains definitely won't develop enough to make good decisions all the time until they're out of the nest.  And the $4.99 monthly fee may save my sanity - and my pocketbook, depending on what the wee ones choose to do.  Even better, this works not just on phones associated with the T-Mobile account but also any tablets, too.

T-Mobile FamilyWhere® is another nice check-in feature.  Again, I'd like to trust the wee ones to be where they say they will go, but knowing I can check in with them is an added bonus.  The caveat is that the phone's GPS has to be turned on to make it accurate, but it allows me to log on to see where the phone is (and I'm guessing it's not likely that they'll leave the phone behind on purpose).  Or I can make it more proactive for them where they periodically check in with me via text, and the text include a link that tells me where they are.  I'm hoping this is nothing we ever need, but it's nice to know that it exists for $9.99/month.

One I know I'll use on a regular basis is the Web Guard.  While the phones I get for them (someday) will initially not be smart phones, it's hard to find phones now that don't connect to the Internet.  And there are a lot of sites out there that I don't want them to see.  There's a great free service T-Mobile offers Web Guard filters that you can adjust to fit your child's age.

A few other tips to help stay safe this summer?

ICE - Save In Case of Emergency as a contact in your phone so that if there is an emergency or someone else needs to get ahold of you, they can.  List it as ICE Mom Cell so that it's clear who it belongs to and include a few, in case you aren't available for some reason.

Stay Charged - Make sure that your kids know that cell phones have to stay turned on when they aren't at home (except at school and other forbidden places), whether so you can reach them or to help track them.  To ensure they don't run out of batteries, have them get into a routine of charging their phones every night.  Look into the battery chargers that plug into a wall and store up a charge so you child can charge while out and about, if necessary.

Current Photos - Again, this is one of the ones you hope to never need to use, but keep current photos of all family members on your phone so you can use them in case of emergency.  Update the photos every six months, and put the photos on everyone's phone.

Memorize - Phones are great.  But there are times when they don't work or they run out of batteries or get broken or lost.  In those situations, you and your children need to have key phone numbers memorized, just like in the olden days when we had phones with cords.  Make sure that your children have family phone numbers memorized and that they know what number to call in an emergency.

Check-in Text - While parents sometimes love embarrassing their children (and I'll admit to it on occasion), you'll have much better luck with your children voluntarily letting you know where they are if they don't have to call you to update where they are but can instead send you a text that others are less likely to notice.  You'll still know when they arrive somewhere or leave somewhere, and it's something they can do without embarrassing themselves in front of their friends.

Family Contract - This is a biggie for me.  I remember when my friend Melisa posted about the cell phone contract she had her son sign when he got his first phone.  And I get it.  In fact, I saved that post as a document so I can reference it someday.  Figure out what the rules are for the phone, and make sure your children know what they are.  They need to know clearly what they are and what the consequences are for not following them.  It's just good parenting.

In the interest of full disclosure, I attended the T-Mobile event described above.  They provided the information I shared in this post, though this is my wording.  I was not compensated, nor was I asked to write about it.  As always, all opinions remain my own.

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