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Mobile Safety Canadian Center for Child Protection
Ask The Right Questions

Role of mobile phone providers/carriers

Mobile providers/carriers like TELUS have taken proactive steps in protecting children from adult content. Incoming text messages to mobile phones, for example, are filtered in an attempt to reduce spam, and this helps prevent the exposure of users to sexually explicit material. Additionally, TELUS is one of many Canadian Internet Service Providers that has implemented Project Cleanfeed Canada, an initiative to block access to known child pornography sites hosted in other countries on both wireline and wireless connections.

What type of plan should I get for my child/adolescent's mobile phone?

Contract/longer-term plans

When obtaining a mobile phone, it is possible to enter into an optional, binding contract that typically lasts from one to three years. As is typical in most service contracts, these mobile phone contracts usually indemnify carriers/service providers from general legal liability, placing the onus of responsibility on the user.

While mobile phone providers/carriers may be responsible for content they produce or provide (as well as for some material produced for them by third parties), they aren't required to monitor or take responsibility for other widely available online content.

Most service providers won't enter into a longer-term contract directly with anyone under 18 years of age, though children/adolescents may be added to their parents' plan or, in some cases, have a parent co-sign their contract.

Postpaid, non-contract plans

Mobile phone clients may subscribe to a monthly rate plan (postpaid plan) that isn't subject to a set contract term (but will still retain Terms of Service). Postpaid plans provide the flexibility of being able to cancel the service if required. This is beneficial if parents aren't sure whether or not their child/adolescent is ready for a mobile phone.

Prepaid plans

In addition to long-term contract-based plans and postpaid plans without contracts, most mobile providers/carriers offer phones with prepaid airtime (or "minutes"). While free of a long-term contract, prepaid phones still come with Terms of Service, committing the user to appropriate use.

Prepaid plans can be helpful to parents, as the phone isn't usable once the user's credit has run out. If restricting your child/adolescent's downloads of games and ringtones, web browsing, and text messaging is desired, establishing a modest credit limit on a prepaid plan might help. It will also help your child learn about accountability and responsibility.

However, there are also risks to prepaid phones. As long as money is provided by the user up-front, children of almost any age are able to purchase a prepaid mobile phone. If you discover your child has a mobile phone, it's possible s/he purchased a prepaid package without your knowledge or consent.

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