Flashlight, App & Halloween

Should we carry a flashlight when the smartphone can light things up for us? Sometimes a redundant ‘Yes.’

This is a list of everyday activities, for example, a calculator, that we now perform with phone apps instead of with a separate device.
The Apps Take Over!

Dear Ms. Smartphone: We are getting ready for Trick ‘O Treat and have a small family disagreement. My kids (Sponge Bob and Princess) believe that the flashlight on our phones will be sufficient at night. I am old-school, raised in the U.K. and insist that we bring battery-operated flashlights (torches in U.K. speak). Your thoughts? Laurent, Berkeley

Dear Laurent: First and foremost, I hope that Sponge Bob and Princess have a happy and safe adventure. As you get ready for Halloween, it’s great to use this family time to talk with kids about phones.

There are several reasons why you should carry a separate flashlight this Halloween. It will illuminate a wider area, and the batteries will out-last those on a smartphone. But the important reason is ‘redundancy.”

Redundant!

As we come to rely more and more on apps to perform everyday functions (the image speaks loudly!) we need to stay acquainted with older, mechanical methods. Put another way, you want to have both old-fashioned flashlights and newer LED ones in your earthquake safety kit, along with a spare battery or solar charger for your phone. The need for redundancy is a vital lesson for digitally minded kids. It’s particularly important when the wifi network and/or cellular service are both down.

APP SAFETY AND FLASH

In researching this illuminating topic (!) I came across two more issues. First, beware if you need to download a flashlight app to an older phone. Apparently these apps, particularly on Android phones, can ask for up to 55 permissions to read the phone status, view Internet connections, and have full network access. So consider with your kids the privacy concerns, and speak up for digital security.

Second, it’s not clear that the flashlight app will work at night when you also need to take pictures. Both the flashlight and built-in camera flash need that pulse of light. Since you will want to to record the adventures of Sponge Bob and Princess, it’s best to also carry the torch.

Safe Walk to School or Phone?

Mom worries about using
phones and earbuds when kids walk to school.

This is a logo for safe routes to school in Marin County, Ca.

Dear Ms. Smartphone: A Mom question- do you think it’s safe for an 11 year old that walks to school to have a phone? There are several big streets to cross, and I worry that he will be looking at his phone instead of the road. My son says everyone has a phone and most of the kids do walk to school in our neighborhood. D.D., Tiburon

Dear D.D.: A couple of thoughts on the question you pose. First, congratulations on living in a neighborhood where children can walk to school. Many schools, including the one in your town, have Safe Routes to School programs and you can get more involved with their training. Two communities I know of, Honolulu, Hi. and Montclair, Ca. have banned pedestrians from using phones and earbuds when crossing intersections, but it is not clear that there is much enforcement.

That said, don’t over-worry. Talk over the safety issues with your son and make a ‘compact’ with him to follow the advice from Safe Routes to School. Personally, I would threaten to take the phone away if you find he uses it while crossing streets. Explain that he needs to focus for the full time.

There is a lot of confusion around phones and pedestrian safety. On the one hand, the percent of traffic deaths involving pedestrians has soared from 12% to 16% between 2008 and 2018. During the same time period phone ownership surged, and car safety improved. However, this could be a spurious correlation. Seventy five percent of the pedestrian fatalities occur after dark. It is also known that 32% or more of the ped fatalities are alcohol related. As in distracted driving, it’s hard to get the ‘real’ rate when phones (or marijuana/drugs) are involved.

You are right to question whether kids, phones, and walking mix well. One obvious point is to make safety and phones an everyday lesson, and make it a new discussion point with the November 3 switch to Daylight Savings Time.

Posting Kids Pics?

Are parents naive when they post kids pictures on social media like Instagram and Facebook?

source: deviantart

Dear Ms. Smartphone: Should I speak up? My nephew has two girls, ages 5 and 9. They are active and photogenic, and he set up an Instagram site for their pictures. In one of the posts the girls are lying on their backs, without tops. It looks suggestive. I’m not a prude, but it strikes me wrong. Dave, Brentwood

Dear Dave: If this photo was a one-off and not typical of his posts, maybe you should let it go. But otherwise, say something….it’s more about the ‘how’. First ask whether your nephew has thought of restricting access to the site to family members and personal friends. That said, one of them might still re-post.

The Child Rescue Coalition claims that 90 percent of children have been featured on social media by age 2. Most parents believe pictures of their children in the bath or naked are simply innocent snapshots of childhood and don’t realize that their postings can go far and wide.

An Australian source estimated that one half of 45 million child-porn images it found online were sourced from social media. They explain that while the photos copied from social media would not be considered exploitation material on their own, they were often accompanied by comments that ‘exploit’ the child.

A couple of years ago NPR did a piece you might want to replay for your nephew. Children have privacy rights, and may not want their parents to be sharing their pictures and stories. Think of it this way: a parent needs to set a good example for kids: weighing the social benefits of building community, and posting good photography and happy moments versus the lewder issues and privacy.

What to post- when not to post: It’s a thoughtful lesson for parents to discuss with their kids, item by item. And, it might explain why the number of Insta sites for dogs just grows and grows.