EXCLUSIVE: Australian parents are hanging on to, rather than handing down, their old mobile phones because they don't know how to clear the data and are worried their kids will see private messages and spend up on their accounts.

New research shows one in three people are concerned someone will see their personal information or receive their messages if they give away their old mobiles, with more than 80 per cent admitting they would be more inclined to pass on their old phones if they knew how to remove their data and clear their phones properly.

And while most parents said they would like to hand down old phones to their children to save money on buying new devices, they were worried it could prove costly if credit cards and account details attached to their phones were not disconnected properly and their kids racked up large bills or made purchases without their consent as a result.

A third of parents also admitted they did not know how to set 'kid-friendly' parental controls on their mobiles.

Australian parents are being encouraged to learn how to clear their phones so they can safely hand them down to their kids. Picture: Mobile Muster
Australian parents are being encouraged to learn how to clear their phones so they can safely hand them down to their kids. Picture: Mobile Muster

Australia's only government-accredited mobile phone recycling program Mobile Muster commissioned the survey of more than 1000 Australian parents in September this year.

The survey also found:

• Children are the most likely recipients of hand-me-down phones;

• That out of 34 per cent of parents that had handed phones down to children, one in five admit their children received messages not intended for them;

• Seventeen per cent had their children make purchases without their consent.

Alice Pryor from Parents' Voice said learning how to set controls could help parents effectively limit their children's screen time on handheld devices.

"With excessive screen time being a major contributor to poor health outcomes for children it is helpful to learn how to limit access to certain elements such as certain websites or apps. And this can be done on your previously used phones also," Ms Pryor said.

Children are the most likely recipients of hand-me-down phones.
Children are the most likely recipients of hand-me-down phones.

Manager of Mobile Muster Spyro Kalos said the research showed removing data was considered "too much hassle" for many people and as a result most old phones were shoved into drawers and forgotten.

Australia was "a hand-me-down nation", but unwanted mobiles were well behind clothes, books, toys and baby items when it came to being passed on, Mr Kalos said.

"Unlike other items, we keep a lot of personal data on our mobile phones. Keeping our data secure is fundamental to everyone which is why we need to feel comfortable that we've removed all our data before passing it on."

It wasn't a child that read messages Sydney communications consultant Christopher Hughes' messages when he gave away his old phone a few years' ago, but his 23-year-old, younger brother.

 

Sydney's Christopher Hughes didn't clear his phone properly and gave it to his younger brother, who then read his private imessages to his girlfriend. Picture: Supplied
Sydney's Christopher Hughes didn't clear his phone properly and gave it to his younger brother, who then read his private imessages to his girlfriend. Picture: Supplied

 

"Very embarrassing" private imessages between Mr Hughes and his girlfriend were able to be viewed by his (gleeful) sibling, on the second-hand phone.

"He still teases me about some of the messages to this day. I quickly learnt how to clear my phone," Mr Hughes said.

Mr Kalos said removing data was much easier than most people believed and was worth the effort.

Tech-savvy Melbourne social media manager Alex Squadrito, 23, doesn't understand the reluctance to handover old phones.

 

Tech-savvy Alex Squadrito  says if you clear your old phone properly there's no problem. Picture: Supplied
Tech-savvy Alex Squadrito says if you clear your old phone properly there's no problem. Picture: Supplied

He's got a new phone every second year from about the age of 16, and made a habit of passing on his unwanted devices to family, friends and colleagues.

Mr Squadrito said there had never been a problem because he always made sure he completely cleared, and then reset, his phone properly.

Tips on how to have a hassle-free handover

Passing on your mobile phone within the family is a great way to reuse the device and extend its life. Follow these simple steps to ensure that you have removed your personal data:

1. Backup - backup your data by moving your photos, videos and documents to your Cloud, Google account or by connecting your phone to a computer;

2. Disconnect - disconnect all the accounts which are linked to your phone such as your iTunes or Google Play account;

3. Reset - wipe the data from your device by performing a 'factory reset'. This will return your phone to its original state by erasing all the data, including files and downloaded apps.



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