We’ve rounded up 50 valuable tips from experts on mobile devices, wireless, safe Internet usage, and more to help you get the most from your cell phone. Play it safe by using your device when it’s safe to do so, avoiding calls and texts from anonymous numbers to steer clear of phishing and other scams, learn strategies for monitoring your kids’ cell phone use to stay on top of potential problems, and teach your kids about smart mobile usage.
The following 50 helpful tips include advice for keeping your children safe when they venture into the wireless world, information about reducing radiation from cell phone use, driving safely while using your cellphone, and everyday safety tips that everyone can use. These tips aren’t listed in any particular order of importance, but they are categorized to make it easy to locate the advice you’re looking for.
Click on a category name below to jump to a specific section:
1. Be careful what you share. “Use the same good sense about what you post from your phone as from a computer. Once they’re posted, text, photos, and video are tough to take back, can be copied and pasted elsewhere, and are up there pretty much forever. Think about the people in them (including you!). Reputations are at stake.” – Tips for Smart Cellphone Use, Connect Safely; Twitter: @ConnectSafely
2. Program an emergency number. “Program a contact number listed as ICE (“in case of emergency”) into your phone book, so that police and other emergency personnel know who to call if you need help.” – Cell Phone Safety Tips, BBB; Twitter: @WisconsinBBB
3. Be careful when crossing the road. “Don’t cross the street while engaged in conversation on a cell phone.” – Alex Stadtner, Cell Phone Safety Tips for Limiting Radiation, Healthy Building Science; Twitter: @HealthyBldSci
4. Erase your data with a swipe. “Apps like Find My iPhone and Lost will…allow you to remotely wipe the phone, erasing your personal data and restoring it to its original settings should it become stolen. This will help keep your passwords, logins, and online accounts safe.” – Amanda Perez, Cell Phone Safety Tips For Stolen Devices, ABC30; Twitter: @ABC30
5. “Claw” your fingers around your phone. “This tight grip will make it harder for anyone to snatch your phone out of your hands. Not sure how to master the claw? No worries! CNET gives a great explanation: ‘Grip the phone securely in your hand, fanning out your fingers so that you’ve formed a protective cage or claw around the phone.’ For even more claw-like protection, you can weave your fingers around the device.” – Kyle Therese Cranston, 4 Tips for Keeping Your Cell Safe on Public Transportation, Edenred Commuter Benefit Solutions; Twitter: @CommuterBenefit
6. Don’t show it off. “Smartphones make good targets because their relatively small size makes them easy to snatch and hide, their ubiquity makes them easy to move and their high value makes them a good return on a thief’s investment, netting hundreds of dollars for a quick crime. The more premium the smartphone, the more money it brings in.
“In addition to protecting your phone from scratches and breaks, a basic case can help conceal a distinctive phone’s telltale markings. That’s a detriment if you’re trying to show off your handset’s badass styling, but a benefit for maintaining a lower profile. Note: Even though they look better, a flashy designer case is like sticking a “steal me” marquee on your phone.” – Jessica Dolcourt, Keep Your Phone from Getting Stolen (and What to Do If It Is), CNET; Twitter: @CNET
7. Keep it locked. “Make sure that you have a secret PIN (personal identification number), a password, fingerprint setting or other security measures in place so that only you can access your phone.” – National Cyber Security Alliance, June is Internet Safety Month! The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and ConnectSafely Share Tips to Ensure Online Safety and Summertime Fun, PR Newswire; Twitter: @PRNewswire
8. 911 is free—call for an emergency. “Your cell phone is one of the greatest tools you can own to protect yourself and your family in dangerous situations – with your phone at your side, help is only three numbers away. Dial 911 or another local emergency number in emergencies such as a fire, traffic accident, road hazard or medical emergency. Remember, an emergency call is a free call on your cell phone!” – Cell Phone Safety Tips, Mize Centers; Twitter: @mizesales1
9. Keep up with updates. “Keep your mobile phone updated. Check your phone manufacturer’s website for instructions on downloading security updates.” – Mobile Device Malware, GCF LearnFree; Twitter: @GCFLearnFree
10. Your house may be burglarized due to social media. “If you spend any time with social media, (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) You have probably found that you can “check-in” somewhere to let all your friends know what you’re up to, and maybe even stop by for coffee. But if your security settings on the social networks are not set properly, you could just as easily be telling robbers that your house is vacant right now, which they will find most helpful when they clean you out. Sometimes, they will come back in a couple of months, to get this stuff you bought with the insurance money, too. Occasionally, they will look for important documents to commit identity theft. All told, checking-in may be one of the most reckless cell phone safety errors we can commit.” – Cell Phone Safety Identity Theft and Cell Phone Security, About Money; Twitter: @AboutMoney
11. Sign out of your banking app when finished. “Don’t save your banking app ID on your device: Most apps give consumers the option to save their ID to that device. But if the smartphone or tablet falls into the wrong hands, the thief will have access to sensitive information, including balances and critical account numbers. Also make sure you sign out of the app after each session. Most apps automatically sign users out after a set time without detecting activity, but it’s safer to sign out immediately after each use.” – Stephen Ebbett, 6 Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft When Mobile Banking, About Money; Twitter: @AboutMoney
12. Contact your bank about a stolen phone. “Let your bank know if your phone or tablet is lost or stolen: If you use your mobile device for banking, it’s a good idea to alert your bank if your smartphone or tablet goes missing, even if you have a strong password and haven’t saved cookies from a previous session. That way, the bank can monitor your account for suspicious activities and set you up with new security measures right away.” – Stephen Ebbett, 6 Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft When Mobile Banking, About Money; Twitter: @AboutMoney
13. Stop slouching. “Looking down can strain neck and back ligaments, suggests a computer-model analysis. Your head weighs 10 to 12 pounds, but focusing downward can increase forces on the neck by five times or more, leading to poor posture and pain.
“So what can you do? Straighten up, first of all, says Kenneth Hansraj, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon in Poughkeepsie, New York. And carry device at chest height with head up, chest open and shoulder blades back. Move just your eyes downward. And then, take a break. Your neck is not supposed to stay stuck in one position for a long period. If you’re reading on a tablet or phone, stop every so often to swivel and tilt your head — up and down, then side to side.” – 3 Dumb Things We Do with Smartphones, Good Housekeeping; Twitter: @goodhousemag
14. Clean your phone regularly. “Newsflash: Your phone is dirty. Like, really dirty. It’s crawling with germs and bacteria that can cause acne and even nasty rashes. And if you take your phone to the bathroom often, it could also be covered in fecal matter.” – Amanda Hawkins, 5 Ways Your Phone Is Ruining Your Skin, Good Housekeeping; Twitter @goodhousemag
15. Give your eyes a break. “Staring at the tiny font in your texts and scrolling through dozens of tweets can lead to eyestrain, blurred vision, dizziness, and dry eyes. And blurred vision plus sore neck muscles can also cause headaches.
“If you’re experiencing eye discomfort, make your phone’s font size bigger. Mark Rosenfield, O.D., Ph.D., told Men’s Health that phone users should try to hold their phones at least 16 inches away from their faces. Every few minutes look up from your screen at something far away for short breaks, and don’t forget to blink.” – Amanda Hawkins, 5 Seriously Bad Side Effects of Your Smartphone Addiction, Good Housekeeping; Twitter: @goodhousemag
16. Keep your cell phone within reach while driving. “Place your cell phone within easy reach and where you can grab it without taking your eyes off of the road. If you receive a call at an inconvenient time, if possible, let your voice mail answer it for you.” – Cell Phone Safety Tips, Progressive; Twitter: @Progressive
18. Hang up when necessary. “Just because you can talk in the car doesn’t mean you always should. If you’re getting into a hairy traffic situation or the skies open up with buckets of rain, don’t try to power through it. These hazardous situations require your full attention, so end your call and focus up.” – Taking a Call? Use These Tips for Cell Phone Safety While Driving, PMC Insurance Group; Twitter: @PMCInsurance
20. Remember to focus on driving. “Don’t look up phone numbers, don’t take notes or play with your PDA (personal digital assistant) while driving. These activities prohibit you from watching where you are going. Of course, you shouldn’t read the paper, apply eye make-up or write notes while driving either! Driving is serious business.” – How to Hear in a Hands-Free World: Mobile and Cell Phone Safety Tips, AudiologyOnline; Twitter: @audiologyonline
21. Keep conversations to a minimum while driving. “Keep conversations short and sweet. Develop ways to get free of long-winded friends and associates while on the road. Don’t use the cell phone for social visiting while you drive.” – Mark Young, Cell Phones and Cellular Phone Use Safety Tips, LinkedIn SlideShare; Twitter: @SlideShare
22. Ask your passenger to dial when you’re in the driver’s seat. “If possible, ask a passenger to make or take a call for you.” – Distracted Driving: Using a Cell Phone Behind the Wheel, Forest Agency Insurance; Twitter: @ForestAgency
23. Know the laws when driving. “Familiarize yourself with the laws concerning distracted driving. Many states have outlawed cell phone usage when driving.” – Be Safe on the Road Bloomington, The City of Bloomington; Twitter: @citybloomington
24. Don’t hold your phone near your body when in use. “Why? The amount of radiation absorbed by your head and body decreases dramatically with even a small distance. Don’t put the phone in your pocket or clip it to your belt, even when using your headset.” – EWG’s Guide to Safer Cell Phone Use: 5 Safety Tips for Cellphone Use, EWG; Twitter: @ewg
25. Use your cell phone for emergencies or important calls only. “Turn your cell phone off more often. Reserve it for emergencies or important matters. As long as your cell phone is on, it emits radiation intermittently, even when you are not actually making a call. If you’re pregnant, avoiding or reducing your cell phone use may be especially important.” – Dr. Mercola, NEW Urgent Warning to All Cell Phone Users, Mercola.com; Twitter: @mercola
26. Learn about the potential effects of radiation on reproductive health. “I would recommend that [Consumer Reports] forewarn its readers not to keep their cell phones near their genitals. We have substantial evidence that cell phone radiation damages sperm in males and some evidence of reproductive health effects (i.e., neurological disorders) in human offspring as well as mice for females exposed to cell phone radiation during pregnancy. We also have preliminary evidence of increased breast cancer risk for women who kept cell phones in their bras.” – Dr. Joel M. Moskowitz, The 4 Cell Phone Safety Tips Offered By Consumer Reports Isn’t Enough, RFSafe; Twitter: @rfsafe
27. When the signal is weak you should wait. “When reception is bad (such as in a rural areas or when you’re driving) use your phone for emergencies only. The weaker the signal, the more the radio frequency has to boost itself to get connected, increasing your exposure.” – The Link Between Cell Phones and Cancer, The Dr. Oz Show; Twitter: @DrOz
28. At night turn it off to lower EMF exposure. “This is one of the best ways to protect your immune system and, therefore, your dental health. Give your body a break by keeping your cell phone far from your head while sleeping. Invest in a landline if needed and turn off all routers before bed. There are lots of ways to protect your body’s critical restorative process.” – Andrea Fabry, Cell Phones and Tooth Decay, It Takes Time; Twitter: @AndreaFabry
29. Carry your phone properly when you must carry it close to you. “If you must carry your cellphone on you, keep the keypad position toward your body and the back toward the outside to have the electromagnetic fields move away from you, rather than through you, according to Consumerist.” – Lizette Borreli, Teenage Girl Wakes to Samsung Galaxy S4 Catching Fire Under Pillow: 4 Ways to Make Your Cell Phone Safer, Medical Daily; Twitter: @lizcelineb
30. There isn’t one cell phone that is safer than another. “Don’t assume one cell phone is safer than another. There’s no such thing as a “safe” cell phone. This is particularly true for industry promoted SAR ratings, which are virtually useless in measuring the true potential biological danger as most all of the damage is not done by heat transfer, which SAR measures.” – Dr. Mercola, NEW Urgent Warning to All Cell Phone Users, Mercola.com; Twitter: @mercola
31. Read the fine print. “Buried in cell phone manuals, cell phone companies specifically instruct us that phones should not be held close to the body. For example, the iPhone 5 manual states “Carry iPhone at least 10mm away from your body to ensure exposure levels remain at or below the as—tested levels. Cases with metal parts may change the RF performance of the device, including its compliance with RF exposure guidelines, in a manner that has not been tested or certified.” The Blackberry Bold states, “keep the BlackBerry device at least 0.59 in. (15 mm) from your body (including the abdomen of pregnant women and the lower abdomen of teenagers) when the BlackBerry device is turned on and connected to the wireless network.
“Without following these instructions, we risk being exposed to levels of radiation that are too high- higher than radiation limits set by our federal government. The reality is that radiation emissions from devices are tested before going on the market- with a space between the device and your body. For cell phones the distance varies depending on the manufacturer and is under an inch.” Cell Phone Radiation FAQ’s, Environmental Health Trust; Twitter: @saferphones
32. Don’t use your cell phone in a closed-in metal area. “Try not to use your cell phone in elevators, cars, trains or planes. Cell Phones draw more power, and emit more radiation, in enclosed metal spaces.” – Megan, 13 Ways to Reduce Cell Phone Radiation, Center for Electrosmog Prevention; Twitter: @No2SmartMeters
33. Avoid Electro Hypersensitivity (EHS) due to the location of an Electromotive Force (EMF) source. “Don’t wear metal-rimmed glasses when using a cell phone,” advises the Center for Safer Wireless. Additionally, the Center for Safer Wireless suggests that you should “refrain from using your cell phone in a car, bus or train. Metal reflects wireless radiation, and it bounces around you when on a cell phone in this environment.”– Cell Phone Safety Tips, Center for Safer Wireless; Twitter: @SaferEMF
34. Use flight mode when your smartphone or cell phone is not in use. “Flight mode turns off the wireless transmitter thereby reducing exposure to exposure to radiation fields. Make it a habit to either switch to flight mode or turn it off altogether when not in use.” – Andrea Fabry, 10 Cell Phone Safety Tips, It Takes Time; Twitter: @AndreaFabry
35. Check your child’s cell phone records. “Review cell phone records for any unknown numbers and late night phone calls and texts.” While it may feel as though you’re snooping on your kids, reviewing their calling and texting records can help you identify warning signs such as strange calling patterns or unfamiliar numbers that could indicate that your child is communicating with someone they shouldn’t be such as a potential predator. – Help children use cell phones safely, NetSmartz Workshop; Twitter: @NetSmartz
36. Teach your kids to ignore anonymous calls or texts. It’s one thing for adults to choose to answer anonymous calls or text messages, but kids may not always know how to detect a scammer and may unknowingly reveal personal information that could be used in malicious ways. “An anonymous call could be someone trying to extract personal information. An anonymous text could be phishing.” – Rob Zidar, 13 Cell Phone Safety Tips for Teens, Pre-Teens and Their Parents, Lawrenceville Patch; Twitter: @LawvilleNJPatch
37. Be careful when sharing your phone number. Teenagers may be so excited to finally have their own cell phone or smartphone that they immediately give out their number to everyone they know – or worse, publish it online on their social media profiles. “Only give out your phone number to people you know for sure you can trust.” – Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D. and Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D., Cell Phone Safety Ten Tips for Teens, Cyberbullying Research Center; Twitter: @onlinebullying
38. Does your child need that phone feature? Parental control apps allow parents to exert greater control over the features and functions their children can access on their smartphones. Making use of these apps and other tools to restrict access to the features you deem safe and appropriate can go a long way in keeping your kids safe while giving you much-needed peace of mind. “Determine what features your child needs based on his age. Does your 10-year-old really need web browsing capabilities?” – Laura Willard, Cell Phone Safety Tips for Kids, Tweens and Teens, SheKnows; Twitter: @SheKnows
39. Beware of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is yet another reason to monitor your child’s smartphone usage including call and text message records. While your child may not always tell you when they’re being mistreated by a friend or acquaintance, seeing threatening or bullying messages on your child’s phone will allow you to address issues before they escalate to dangerous levels. “Cyber bullies, adults and children alike, harass others by sending threatening or rude texts to cell phones.” – What Are Some Cell Phone Safety Tips For Kids?, How Stuff Works; Twitter: @HowStuffWorks
40. Set clear rules and guidelines for downloading media and apps. Giving your kids free reign to use all the features on their smartphones can quickly rack up your wireless bill and introduce security risks to their devices. “Downloading new ringtones or games can add unwanted expenses or hidden bugs. Set limits and rules about downloads.” – Amanda Martin, Cell Phone Safety Tips for your Child, Securemama.com; Twitter: @securemama
41. Use a monitoring service for your child’s phone. “One option [for keeping your kids safer while allowing them to use a cell phone or smartphone] is a phone or monitoring service that provides parental controls. Parental controls let your parents control how and when you use your cell phone, and who is able to contact you. (You and your parents can determine the rules together.) With parental controls, you won’t have to worry about receiving unwanted calls or texts—or the temptation to text during science class!” – Jennifer Dignan, Cell Phone Safety Helpful Tips for Kid Communications, Scholastic Teachers; Twitter: @ScholasticTeach
42. Limit your child’s time on the phone. There’s much discussion about how much screen time is good for kids and teens today, and today’s wireless devices provide access to all the games, chatting features, web browsers, media, and apps they could possibly consume in a lifetime. Setting clear limits on smartphone usage will help you keep screen time within reasonable limits. “Half an hour of screen time is recommended for children 4-5 years old; an hour for ages 5-10; and two hours for high school aged kids.” – Melanie Medina, Growing up Digital – Cell Phone Safety for Kids, Identity Force; Twitter: @IdentityForce
43. Search for the unknown callers. Discovering unknown or anonymous numbers on your child’s phone can be alarming, but a bit of detective work can lead you to answers. “Now that you know who your kid chats with, you can see if there are any messages that make you suspicious. If you spot a phone number you don’t recognize, do a reverse phone lookup to discover exactly who they are talking to. By searching any domestic number, you may discover the texter’s name, carrier, and address.
“See a name you don’t recognize? Get the lowdown on the mystery texter by conducting an online background check. Pull their criminal records to discover if they’ve potentially been convicted of anything serious, such as a sexual offense or other violent crimes. Being armed with this information is the first step to squashing your teen’s inappropriate relationship.” – Logan Strain, Who Has Your Kid Been Texting? Guarantee Cell Phone Safety with These Tips, Instant Checkmate; Twitter: @instntcheckmate
44. Be careful, you might be sharing your location. “Be location savvy: Apps that share your location with friends and family can be great, but be sure only the right people can find out where you are.” – Connected Kids and Phones, StaySafeOnline.org; Twitter: @StaySafeOnline
45. Keep it organized. “Always keep your child’s cell phone charger in the same place. It’s best to find a central location — like maybe the kitchen counter, or a table by the door. Mark the end of the monthly billing cycle on a calendar to remind her how long those dwindling minutes have to last.” – Fayette Woman, 10 Cell Phone Safety Tips for Parents, Fayette Woman; Twitter: @faywoman
46. Tape your home number on your phone (or a parent’s cell phone number). “Imagine your child’s phone (or your own) is lost. Even if the person who finds it wants to return it, they have to go through your private information to find a number to dial. Make it easy. Tape your home number (or whatever number is suitable) to the back of the phone, along with information about a reward, if you like. That way, even with a password locking the keypad or screen, a do-gooder can get you your phone back!” – marianmerritt, Cell Phone Safety Tips for Kids, Norton Community by Symantec; Twitter: @NortonSupport
47. Get a “School Rules” education. “Visit your kid’s school or school district website and pull up your school’s phone policy. Incorporate the school guidelines into your house rules.” – The Online Mom, LLC, Generation Smartphone: A Guide for Parents of Tweens & Teens, Lookout, Inc.; Twitter: @Lookout
48. Encourage your children to talk to you about their conversations with friends and experiences online. Make them feel comfortable talking to you if they are made to feel uncomfortable by anyone through any service while using their device. “Tell an adult you trust if you receive anything on your phone—a call, a text message, an email, a picture, or voicemail message—that makes you uncomfortable.” – Cell Phone Savvy, National Crime Prevention Council; Twitter: @McGruffatNCPC
49. Get insurance on your child’s phone. “54% of kids plan on spending their summer playing outside. With so many opportunities for their cellphone to become broken, stolen or misplaced, it’s important to protect their device with mobile protection, considering that nearly 30% of parents have had to replace a child’s cellphone in the past 18 months. This will protect their device against damage (including water damage), loss and theft. Ask your carrier about getting the most comprehensive coverage available for your device.” – 5 Summer Cellphone Safety Tips for Kids, Asurion; Twitter: @Asurion
50. Model the behavior you want to see from your child. “Model the manners and behavior you want to see. Avoid texting in the car. Consider narrating your phone use (“I’m looking up directions to the party”) so young kids understand the utility of the device. Make sure to excuse yourself if you have to interrupt a family moment to attend to your phone.” – My Kid Texts Constantly! What Can I Do?, Common Sense Media; Twitter: @CommonSense