Typically, I get asked about a burner phone indirectly. A parent finds a phone they don’t recognize and gets curious about whose it is. Or a parent sees a new phone on the home wi-fi network and starts asking questions.

Burner phones are inexpensive pre-paid phones (no contract), used for privacy or a period of time you want to be incognito. A separate, but related issue, are the old smart phones parents no longer use. Many of these phones get saved in case of emergency or get forgotten about in the junk drawer because the parent doesn’t know what to do with it.

Here’s the problem: burner phones and these old junk phones work on any wi-fi network.

Kids can pull up games and apps and experience internet life with no filters. Some enterprising young people are even renting out burner phones to classmates for a few dollars a week.

And it doesn’t even have to be YOUR wi-fi. It could be a neighbor’s unsecured wi-fi, a Starbucks or even the library.


How to prevent junk phones and burner phones from entering your world

  1. Wipe the data and recycle your old smart phones
  2. Identify the devices on your network and stay alert for new devices (Circle makes this easy). You hook the Circle up to your wi-fi network and set up profiles for all users. When a new device tries to join the network, you get an alert and can remove it.
  3. Set up a family technology contract with rules and consequences spelled out. One effective rule: no phones in the bedrooms and they get put to bed at a certain hour. Then, if there are phones upstairs, there’s an issue either way.
  4. Change your wi-fi password and don’t give it to the kids (you can input it for their authorized devices).
  5. Teach your kids proper online behavior, give them freedom and stay close by (monitor what they do). Bark makes this easy and it’s very unobtrusive for kids.
  6. Start a conversation: Ask your child if they know anyone who has 2 phones, one from their parents and one with fewer limitations. Talk through why they might be doing that and what the repercussions could be.
  7. Keep the lines of communication open and remain open and flexible to negotiating new boundaries. If a parent restricts access too much, those kids and their friends are going to find a way around the problem.

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