Getting Smart About Smartphones

Tips for Parents

You can guide your children (and their friends!) in the safer use of smartphones. This straight-talk information sheet will get you started.

Please remember, your children learn the most from watching you. Visit Getting Smart About Smartphones and build strong safety skills today.

Setting the “Rules”

Have regular conversations about smartphone safety with your kids. When you learn something new about settings or apps, share it with them. Invite them to share their discoveries with you. At the same time, set some rules for your child’s smartphone use.

  • Rule 1: Your phone is a computer – protect it from thieves and from hackers.
  • Rule 2: Do not respond to texts or other messages that ask for your personal information. Your personal information includes your age, your address, your school, and your location.
  • Rule 3: Do not download “free” games, screen savers, or other files without checking with your parents. These can carry malware that can take information from your phone, including pictures and your friends’ contact information.
  • Rule 4: Do not open an attachment or click on a link in an email or text message if you are not sure what it is or who sent it. The attachment or link might also have a “virus” that puts bugs in your phone.


Apps can extract personal information from smartphones.

You can stop personal information leaks and give your children more safety skills at the same time. Look at the smartphone together and weed out apps that are not clear about their privacy practices.

Screening Apps

  • On your own, review the apps your kids use or want to use. Look for a privacy policy to learn what information the app would collect and use. Federal law requires web sites and online services like mobile apps that are directed to children to get parental consent before they collect personal information from children under the age of 13.1
  • In the app store/platform, read reviews of apps app to see if there are any known issues or concerns.
  • Common Sense Media rates apps for age-appropriateness. They also provide information on privacy and security.

Controlling Apps

  • You can take some control over your child’s access to mobile apps.
  • If you have an Apple device such as an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, use the Restrictions settings. Go to Settings, then General and click on Restrictions. This lets parents prevent kids from installing or deleting apps, making in-app purchases, and accessing the Internet and certain other features.
  • If you use an Android phone, consider using an app blocker to stop children from using apps without your permission.

Reporting Apps

California law requires apps to have a privacy policy.2 If you can’t find an app’s privacy policy or if you have a complaint about the app’s privacy practices, report it.

For More Information

App Blockers: NetNanny, available at, AppLock and Smart AppLock, both available in the GooglePlay store.

App Reviews, Common Sense Media, available at

“Kids’ Privacy: Know Your COPPA Rights,” Federal Trade Commission, available at

“Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online,” Federal Trade Commission, available at

Smartphone Security Checker, Federal Communications Commission,

“How to Remotely Disable Your Lost or Stolen Phone,” PC Magazine (April 2012), available at,2817,2352755,00.asp.


1 The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act also gives parents the right to review information collected from their children under 13. For more on the law, see

2 The California Online Privacy Protection Act, Business and Professions Code §§ 22575-22579.

This fact sheet is for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice or as policy of the State of California. If you want advice on a particular case, you should consult an attorney or other expert. The fact sheet may be copied, if (1) the meaning of the copied text is not changed or misrepresented, (2) credit is given to the California Department of Justice, and (3) all copies are distributed free of charge.