Confirm It’s Completely Gone
The first step is to confirm it’s completely gone. All bags should be checked, all homes should be called, all steps should be retraced. Often, as parents quickly learn, what’s thought vanished forever has just taken a short reprieve inside the couch cushions. But sometimes it really is lost, or temporarily vanishes in such a way that it’s not coming back, such as a visit to the inside of the tub.
Remotely Wipe It
With any lost piece of electronics, but especially phones and tablets, you’ll want to use a remote access app to wipe the device completely. This will ideally delete all apps, all passwords, all personal information, all contacts, and any usage history from the device, but you should check with both your service provider and the device’s manufacturer to see what gets cleared out and what doesn’t. Even if it’s not complete, though, a wipe will ensure privacy and safety. And remember, in the case of phones, to disconnect or transfer the number as appropriate.
Also, make a point of changing all the passwords connected to the phone. Ideally, you’ve limited these to a few things, like a streaming video account, that won’t be a big deal if they’re temporarily breached. But if there are credit cards connected, you may want to place alerts on those and change your password access to them via the internet as well, just to be safe.
The next step won’t be fun, but it will be necessary. Simply put, there needs to be some sort of consequences of losing the device. It can, of course, depend on the situation; if their phone was in their bag when it was stolen, or if it got knocked out of their hand by accident, there’s not much they can do. But in situations where it was carelessness or frivolousness that means a lost device, then there has to be both serious talk about whether or not they get a replacement device and, if they do thanks to school or homework needs, what the rules will be around that device to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
Delay Replacement, If Needed
Consider a “cooling-off” period before you replace a device, as well. Often kids will need a little time away from their devices to fully understand the magnitude of what a lost device means. Once it’s been gone for a while, they will better appreciate it and value it, and hopefully not lose it again.
Finally, make a point of placing limits on device use, apps, and what hours they can and can’t use it. Even something as simple as an app locking off the device until after school hours and before bedtime can be useful for teaching kids about keeping devices in their pockets and bags, where they can easily be found. If you need help setting limits, parental control software may be the right tool for you. Best of all, you can try one for free!