Cell Phones and Teens

Getting your teens a cell phone is not just a communication device from you to them. It opens up a whole world of communication with peers in ways that you may never know about, and a whole world of media they are exposed to and can access at any time.

Have you enabled text on their phone? You can get them a phone without texting abilities (or you can disable it). If you do that, they will think they are in the Stone Age, because all their friends have it, but it could protect them from aimless conversations, especially with “friends” you do not know. Plus, it will protect them from running up exorbitant text bills into the hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Recently, the Washington Post reported a story of Sofia Rubenstein, 17, who recently sent 6,807 text messages in one month alone.

If and when you decide to turn on the texting abilities of your teen’s cell phone, let him or her know that there are limits to how much texting they can do, when they can do it, to whom they can do it (only people you know), and that you would be looking at their texting habits and conversations on a regular basis. No freedoms are ever given without responsibility and accountability. Make sure to limit or prohibit photo texting. You can prohibit sending photos with your carrier to keep your kids from being a part of possible photo-passing frenzies. Consider some of these excerpts from recent articles on this very topic:

Cell Phone Porn Scandal Hits U.S. School

ALLENTOWN, Pa.—Police faced a difficult if not impossible task Thursday as they tried to stop the spread of pornographic video and photos of two high school girls, images that were transmitted by cell phone to dozens of the girls’ classmates and then to the wider world . . .

At least 40 Parkland High School students believed to have received the images would not face prosecution as long as they show their phones to police by Tuesday to ensure the images have been erased. But students at the school said the distribution was far more widespread . . .

Cops: High School Students Traded Nude Pics of Themselves over Cell Phones

FARMINGTON, Utah—Police are questioning a group of teenagers accused of trading nude pictures over cell phones. Farmington Police . . . say six or so Farmington Junior High School students took pictures of themselves and then shared the naked images.

A parent of one of the kids found the pictures on their child’s cell phone and called police. Detectives say the 13- and 14-yearold boys and girls questioned said they took the pictures as a joke, but it’s potentially a crime . . .

Trading Nude Photos Via Mobile Phone Now Part of Teen Dating, Experts Say

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Forget about passing notes in study hall; some teens are now using their cell phones to flirt and send nude pictures of themselves.

The instant text, picture and video messages have become part of some teens’ courtship behavior, police and school officials said.

The messages often spread quickly and sometimes find their way to public websites. “I’ve seen everything from your basic striptease to sexual acts being performed,” said Reynoldsburg police Detective Brian Marvin, a member of the FBI Cyber Crime Task Force of Central Ohio. “You name it; they will do it at their home under this perceived anonymity.”

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Is the Internet disabled on your child’s phone? This can prevent your child from getting unwanted messages and videos from the Web. In England, much of the revenue acquired from cell phones is generated from porn downloaded onto them, and it is rapidly coming our way. This will prevent them from surfing when you are not around and keep them from “buying things” on the Web, like songs and ring tones that you don’t know about (and then are billed for later in the monthly statement).

Information on Limiting Cell Phone Options

AT&T Phones

Smart Limits can be installed for a monthly fee that limits the following:

  • Number of text and instant messages
  • Dollar amount for downloadable purchases (ring tones, games and more)
  • Times of day the phone can be used for messaging, browsing and outbound calling
  • Who the phone can call or text (incoming and outgoing) by blocking and allowing certain numbers
  • Access to content inappropriate for children

MEdia™ Net Parental Controls

MEdia™ Net parental controls are included at no additional charge with most wireless services. With a compatible handset, these controls will:

  • Easily restrict wireless access to mobile websites, as well as restrict purchase of premium content or subscriptions
  • Restrict access to sites with mature content inappropriate for children (content filters)
  • Prevent children from buying premium content (such as ring tones, games and graphics) that is direct-billed to the account holder (purchase blocker)
  • Turn off a specific service for the month once a limit is reached
  • Enable you to program allowed numbers (such as your own and 911) that the phone will always be able to call even if the limit has been used for the month (there will be a notification the action is restricted and the service will be stopped until the next billing cycle begins)

Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless allows parents to check how many minutes their kids have used any time during a billing cycle. Parents can choose to block all text messages.

If any of these touched a somewhat sensitive spot or hot button regarding your family, then perhaps it may be true that you’ve had more invasion of popular culture than you were aware of. The good news is that it doesn’t have to stay like this. You can turn your family around and  proactively shape the hearts and minds of your children. Not only can you do that, but you must. It is the only hope your children have in the midst of a culture that is bombarding them with missiles of deadly assault at a velocity once unthinkable but now a bitter reality.