Cell Phones And Teenagers: Warning!

A few years ago I noticed a new sign posted at our local swimming pool. The sign read, “Absolutely no cell phone use in the locker rooms!”

At first, when I saw the sign I felt like some of my rights had been taken away or something. It felt like I was being controlled. Not that I had ever made a call in the locker room before…but what if someone called or something? Why did the pool administration feel the need to micro-manage it’s patrons?


The majority of patrons to the local swimming pool are high school and middle school age teens. They have swimming classes and swim teams there because it is also used as the high school swimming pool. If you ever see them having a swim day, you will see all the kids have these days, they come in all kinds of shapes and colors. It’s quite something to see.  And, most of these teens have cell phones. Families with children aren’t probably who the sign is talking to as much as the teens who visit the pool daily.

Still, why should someone care if a person uses their phone on their own time while dressing in a locker room? Wait!!! Why would someone think of using a phone while dressing in a locker room? Scary!!!

Light Bulb

After a few seconds of assessing the situation I realized that this precaution was a sign of our times. We live in a time when each person has a camera attached to them at all times which can send a photo in a split second to anyone they choose. This is good and bad.

When something important happens and news needs to travel fast, like when someone has a new baby, phone cameras are the best! However, if a person snaps a photo of an unsuspecting person in a locker room and then sends it to others for a laugh or worse, then phone cameras are a risky temptation.

In no time I went from feeling suppressed by the sign to feeling suppressed by the tempting practices which are enslaving the minds of so many youth, and old, in our society. Now, not only can I not buy Sudafed off the shelf any more because people make Meth out of it, but I can’t dress in a locker room without being on my guard, all because so many people are slaves to the flesh. Oh, the times we live in.

Bigger Light Blub

Just when I thought I had that sign at the swimming pool all figured out I met Jake. Jake is a handsome seventeen year old who has always had plenty of attention from the girls. But, Jake doesn’t really like that attention too much because it has become increasingly more uncomfortable.

While talking to Jake, I told him I noticed that he had been paying a lot of attention to a certain young lady. He said, “Oh ya, Susan. She is a really good girl. She doesn’t send pictures.”

I had to use my imagination for a minute on this one. It was new. “Send pictures?” I said.

Ya, if people are interested in someone they send them a picture of themselves.”

Apparently, according to Jake, girls go into school restrooms during school and take pictures of themselves without their clothes on or in their underwear and send it to boys they like to try to get a date or strike up a conversation.

Upon hearing this I was glad I knew a boy like Jake in this crazy world, but I was also sickened by this new social trend. It is forced pornography.

Not long ago I read a statistic which said something like, “researchers concluded that the majority of all boys have been exposed to porn by age fourteen.” Now that statistic makes complete sense.

If they use a friend’s phone to call Mom to pick them up, they could stumble upon some pron.

Another Story

I have another friend, age sixteen, who told me one day about the big change he made in his life. He said that he had sinned greatly the year before by having sex with a girl on multiple occasions. He has now made so many changes in his life to safeguard against that mistake ever happening again.

I asked my friend how he ended up going down that road to sin at such a young age, when he was raised by good parents who had taught him differently. He said, “Well, it all started with pictures she would send me on my phone…”

I am happy to say, the parents, upon finding out about the sexual situation immediately removed the phone, and helped their son repent and get back on the path to happiness. But, the moral of the story is still there for me….the phone made the relationship with porn and with a girl in an inappropriate way much too accessible. Just a phone? I don’t think so.

How To Keep Your Children Safe

The way I see it there are three options parents have in combating the cell phone pornography problem.

  1. Don’t allow your child to have a cell phone and warn them about this common social practice so that they can be ready to shun it, like Jake did. This way the youth doesn’t have a pornography source in their pocket and they can be on their guard while using friend’s phones.
  2. Create phone boundaries from a young age. Cell phones are an adult device, not a toy and can’t be used unless the person using them has self-government and has proven it repeatedly. In short, the youth thinks and acts like an adult. When the time comes, get a cell phone plan with no texting or emailing at all, and only a call function with limited minutes to only be used to call Mom and Dad. Also, if the boundaries are breached there needs to be loss of phone to keep youth safe.
  3. Do nothing, hope your child won’t see anything and that they have learned enough good at church to combat the soul destroyer known as pornography. Wait until there is a problem before you worry about this social trend. Maybe it doesn’t effect your child’s school anyway.

In invite you to take the time to list the advantages and disadvantages of each of these options and decide what is best for your family. Making a conscious decision on the issue prepares you for further conversations you will need to have with your children and helps you feel secure in your possible no answer to your child.

After all, the limitations are for the safety of the children, spiritually as well as physically. When we know we are acting on the best interest of our child, we don’t need to question or feel pressured to keep up with the other families in our areas by getting our children every device available. We can be different and safe instead.

Follow Up

No matter which option you make your solution to the social problem, I recommend regular follow up on the conversation you have already had with your child about the social situation. In Parenting A House Unitedthere is a whole chapter on preparing children for our sexual world and on recognizing sexual problems as well as a chapter on how to have conversations about delicate subjects. You can find more helpful material there.

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13 thoughts on “Cell Phones And Teenagers: Warning!

  1. It’s interesting that you posted this today. Last week in Sunday School, one of my 13 year old students was complaining that her mom’s condition for a cell phone was the kind with the tracking software on it. I was writing on the board, but I turned around and told her, “Your mom wants to do that because she loves you. She worries about you, she wants you to be as safe as possible, because there are dangerous things out there.” All I got was a blank stare back. But I do agree, I don’t think this is an issue many adults are aware of. Kids are so over sexualized and don’t see sending naughty pictures of themselves as bad. That’s why parents need to talk to and listen to their kids and help them navigate the minefield of teenager-hood. I don’t think you can protect your kids from everything, but you can help them understand what they’re seeing and hearing and be with them on the way.

  2. In our local high school two years ago cell phone pictures caused a huge issue. One girl that was dating a guy sent him a picture of herself topless after a date one weekend. He showed his friend, and then without his knowledge the friend took his phone and forwarded the picture to five of his other friends. Well one of those guys showed HIS girlfriend, who decided this girl was trying to steal her boyfriend, so she forwarded it to her friends on the cheerleading squad. By Monday everyone in the school had seen the picture, the girl refused to go to school for the rest of the year, and the guy who had originally forwarded it was kicked out of school and in police custody.

    I think the biggest thing we need to teach our kids is that online is forever. These photos aren’t Polaroids that can be burned once you decide you don’t like the boy anymore. The pictures, the sexting, the online bullying, these things will always be there, and always be found. Cell phones and computers make it very simple to share something that should be kept personal.

  3. Wow! Great stories. I am hoping that if we talk about it more and send it around to people more then parents will add the topic into their home conversations; I know I have. You are right, you can’t protect them from everything, the world pops some things in their views before you even see it coming. But, on this one, I think we have enough stories to safely say we know about the problem and can start being more proactive about the issue. Thanks for the great comments!

  4. Great Reminders Nicholeen. I find it easier to buy my teen a phone that cannot access the internet or can be switched off see: http://www.ehow.com/how_5747025_disable-internet-cell-phone.html

    At some point, teens need to have some freedom to demonstrate they can manage choices on their own. It is not a good idea to give a 12 year old a smart phone, but maybe a mature capable 17 year old could handle the responsibility. Baby steps of graduated accountability, during the teen years, leads to a successful young adult living away at a university.

    Also it has been a shock to me having raised two young adult men, at how incredibly aggressive young women are today; and this includes LDS girls as well. It used to be boys were the ones to watch out for; now girls are incredibly sexualized and bold. I am not sure if this aggressiveness extends to the young men as well, I guess I will find out in a couple of years.

  5. You are right about the girls. It’s amazing to me too. In fact,the people in the stories I shared are all LDS; the girls and boys.

    I think you are totally right about baby steps with electronics. I tell my children that cell phones are adult tools, not child toys. And, that as soon as they show me they are able to govern themselves well, then I will know they are ready to have and use adult tools in an adult way. (I could go into more detail here, but you get the idea)

  6. The problem with having such restricted access kinds of rules is that as time goes on they need these things in their regular life. My children can’t do homework now without a computer and internet access. So, we can’t have a no internet without a parent home rule because how could they do their homework?
    Once everyone around them has phones, if you don’t let them use a phone then you keep them from developing normal social skills for their age group. Being able to interact in a normal way (like texting your friends) might be vital for a teenage girl to have friends (in my day girls would write notes to each other and talk on the phone). I do not want to prevent my child from forming relationships that are age appropriate.
    I remember not wanting my children to ever have a device that has internet access. But at a certain point they need to switch to devices. For instance, the church really wants them to do personal progress online. But my daughter started it in the notebook and writing in a paper journal and doesn’t want to switch. My son would benefit from starting out his Duty to God online and typing his journal online. My younger kids might be even more likely to need to switch to scriptures on an iphone and marking them, rather than traditional paper ones. These days some people she babysits for don’t have a home phone so there are some practical realities about life now that require cellphones. She has an afterschool job babysitting and her boss can text her to pass on important information.
    One thing I realize is that the more bad things that are available to do on a device, the more good too. I wasn’t thrilled that the world is a place where it makes sense for my daughter to have a cellphone. But it is the world we are in and I can’t believe you didn’t give this as an option.
    4. Give your child access to a cellphone with texting but go over rules and responsibilities often. Emphasize that it is a privilege and they can only have it if they show they can be responsible. Talk about the dangers of texting (it lasts forever, can be forwarded to anyone, there is no tone of voice so easier to misunderstand, easier to cross a line, easier to be inappropriate, dangers of being cyberbullied or cyberbullying, sexting and its consequences, risk of texting relationship being different than the real in person relationship, easy to get too personal too quick, would you be willing to say that out loud where people could overhear, etc.) Consider options when others send inappropriate texts and how to handle it before it happens (blocking people, blocking all pictures, etc.). Emphasize manners (you don’t text when real life people are talking to you, no phone at dinner). Discuss being open (teens should be open about who they are texting) so they don’t have a double life. Discuss a balance in their life like with anything else, the phone should not prevent them from homework, developing their talents, spiritual pursuits, etc.
    For me, my daughter having a cell phone has meant very little actual time texting, but lots and lots of conversations about lots of important things and some learning experiences for her. I’m glad we did it in 7th grade because she has been open to learning from us and being guided because she is young and she is a good kid.
    Getting her a cell phone was never been about closing my eyes and hoping nothing bad happens. Next year when our second child starts earning monthly points for cellphone use, I will be teaching him a lot too. I fully expect to discuss sexting, porn and pictures with him and help him negotiate these dangers which might include blocking pictures (if they even still have that option).

  7. jks,

    That can definitely be another option. I only listed a few ideas; not all ideas. Your comments show how much social inclusion means to our society these days. I don’t believe in being a weirdo just to say I’m different, but I do think that sometimes a family has to be different on purpose to create adequate insulation for the spirits of children. Children who are properly insulated while young, have been proven to resist many more destructive practices than those who are not as restricted. I have noticed that proper insulation often requires a certain amount of isolation, or not fitting in.

    I know there are some people who say that restricting use of some things only creates an infatuation of the restricted things with children. But, I have not seen that to be the case if done properly.

    A little boy I know, whose mother is a dental hygienist, doesn’t like candy. She never gave it to him when he was young, and consequently he has no taste for it. He is seven. He didn’t even want to go trick-or-treating with his little brother because he thought the idea of going out in the cold for candy was too much work for something not worth while; like candy.

    Just today I was explaining the UNCRC bill to my 15 year old son. The child rights bill says that children should have unlimited and unsupervised rights to the internet; among other things. That it is a right for them. When I told my son about this he said, “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of! Are they trying to get every child addicted to porn? Mom, one of the best things you ever did for us was make sure you are with us while we are on the computer. It makes us feel safe. You don’t know how many times I have had a thought pop into my head that I should click on a questionable link. But, then I remember you are there. Your presence helps me remember our rules and I feel committed to keeping them. I can’t believe any adult would be so naive as to think that children could govern an adult machine, like a computer, and not get into bad stuff at some point.”

    He is right. Statistics say that 100% of boys age 14 have been exposed to porn.

    That is what he said…a boy who has a content management job for an online business, and is planning on starting college next year. His testimonial was the greatest reward I could get for all the years of talking about dangers, making plans to keep him safe, and having regular check up meetings. He really gets it. He will get his adult privileges soon enough. Right now we are establishing a habit of safety, and he is grateful.

    Even my husband refuses to use devices without people around. He says, “In this day and age when Satan is attacking at every angle, I have to keep myself safe. There is enough porn and stuff when you enter Wal-Mart, I don’t need to be tempted to see more.” It strength of character is rare these days.

    I know each of our homes are different. Each of our family schedules are different. We all need to make our electronic usage matters of personal and family prayer. We can also listen to what the prophets say. But, OUR family has seen too much. We have lived with foster children who became sexual perpetrators and victims because of electronics and not enough parental communication or observation. We are committed to making sure that our children do not end up having similar experiences if at all possible. We have certain family standards and are very dedicated to living them, even if life would be less complicated if we didn’t.

    It sounds like you are doing lots of teaching and discussing at your home too. That is the most important thing.

    May God bless us all as we pray for the best ways to keep our children safe in these difficult times.

  8. There is something distasteful to me about the idea of insulating children. I am not sure if it is because I find general flaws in the concept, because it seems to focus on control too much, or if it is because insulation is a luxury that most people just don’t have.

    I was one of those kids who wasn’t exposed to sugar until I was older. But I like it just fine, now, so I’m not sure how much more effective that is than simply educating children. It wasn’t insulation that taught me to limit my intake, it was understanding why. That helped me make decisions in the long run.

  9. Both of my teenage girls have cell phones. There is a difference between insulation and setting appropriate boundaries. A cell phone is a tool like any other. If your kids are using the tool correctly (for greater communication), then it’s all good. If they are using it incorrectly (for some of the things mentioned in this post), then the proper role of parents is to set the correct boundaries, by taking away the cell phone if necessary. My 13-year-old sometimes spends so much time texting that I have to confiscate her phone for a day or two. That usually works. As for sexting and inappropriate pictures, if I found out that was happening the cell phones would be gone. So far, they have made good choices in that regard.

    By the way, my 16-year-old made some bad choices when she was younger with her cell phone, but now she uses it rarely and appropriately. For the most part, kids grow up and get smarter if given the correct guidance. That is good news for us parents.

  10. Nicholeen:

    Wonderful post with great advice for parents with teens. Thank you for sharing this.

  11. SilverRain – I agree that parents sometimes protect their children too much and my comment addressed choosing not to protect my oldest from access to a phone. I think appropriate protection is going to vary from person to person and family to family and community to community. For instance, I let my kids ride the school bus. However, I can imagine situations where the school bus environment would be so bad that I would instead drive them to school. I can also imagine the situation where I wouldn’t have the option (time, resources) to drive them and the school bus would be a necessary evil for them to make it to school.
    I think that we have to make wise decisions about these things based on our children and their environment. What I thought was interesting to point out was that technology was changing SO FAST that my children in 8th, 6th, 2nd grade and younger are facing a different world than kids 5 or 10 years older.
    We now all ride in cars even though they can cause our deaths.
    I used to be ANGRY at all the parents who gave their kid’s cell phones. They were making it normal which then means my daughter felt like she should have one. Then suddenly the internet popped up on everyone’s phone. I still don’t have it but I am starting to miss it. I start to think wouldn’t it be nice to have the scriptures online. Wouldn’t it be nice to have access to phone numbers or directions? Wouldn’t it be nice…….Why on earth would it be different for my children?
    I’m still going to protect them a lot. That is what parents should do. But I think there can be a benefit to teaching your children younger when there are still in the zone to listen and learn, because there is much to learn about using a phone in good ways, besides just avoiding porn.

    I am pretty much convinced that my son will be exposed to porn. I can delay it but not by more than a few years. I can protect him by severely limiting sleepovers and limiting computer usage and tv exposure, but nothing will be “enough.” So, I am equally trying the education route.
    I take a little bit of issue with the statement “It all started with the pictures she used to send me on my phone.” What really started it was “It all started when a girl sent me a picture on my phone and I chose not handle the situation appropriately/well.”
    I believe I will severely limit sleepovers to avoid the late night exposure

  12. Thanks Brian! Great comments everyone!

    A quick word on insulation. I think the principle of insulating ourselves and our families is a true one. Isn’t that why we go to church, visit the temple, watch conference, and read scriptures each day? The teaching and immersion in the Spirit keeps us free and protected from the the temptations of the world. Because we have chosen to insulate ourselves spiritually, we are protected from many of the daily temptations and distractions which could take us off our spiritual course.

    I apply the same principle to raising my children. I, on purpose, create an environment where they can be as insulated as possible. A place where the Spirit can dwell. Then when they observe what is going on in the world through the media and in their daily social interactions they are able to very clearly see what is right and what is wrong and make good choices. This is not to say my children are perfect. They are not. But, after many years of applying the insulation principle in my home I have seen very positive results. The insulation principle is what ultimately changed the hearts of the British teens who came to my home as part of the BBC show too. Sure, at first, insulation seemed restricting and scary to them, but in the end, they were begging to stay with tears in their eyes. They said, “Nicholeen, you don’t understand. We feel safe here. Can’t we stay with you?” Oh how I wished I could let them. I knew that after a while of proper insulation they would have a new focus for life. Luckily, we still keep in touch, and talk about life together. Hopefully that clears up my usage of the word.

    Oh, and insulating IS a sort of controlling. I am controlling the spiritual tone in my home. Controlling that feeling is the responsibility of the parent. Parents should not be afraid of controlling some things in their child’s lives. That is why God put the child in our homes to be reared. Rear means to raise; lift up; to elevate; to bring up to maturity. The other definition of rear means to be the last in order.

    So, for me, rearing my children means that I am the leader. They are behind me, and it is my responsibility to bring them up to maturity; to elevate them. To make sure they are mature I must expose them to heavy doses of the Spirit. Only the Spirit can teach them what is true and false. And maturity is based on understanding, which is rooted in what is true and false.

    If you’ve never seen the show it is here. http://teachingselfgovernment.com/videos

  13. Technology has two sides; the bad and the good. A atomic bomb can wipe out entire cities but on the other atomic power can light it up. How we make use of it depends on us, on our education, how we were raised, on how we see the world around us…whatever. When I was a teenager back in the seventies, we had no cell phones and yet we found ways to communicate [basicly that´s what phones do]. Today I could get along without my cell phone but I rather not to, it is a valuable tool in my work, technology at its best. Same with computers. I can not imagine a work day without a computer or even the internet. How would I communicate. I remember back in TIME when I could not go without a FAX, today I still have it but as a museum piece.
    So wnat is the point. Tools like cell phones and computer are parts of our lives, they can help to improve it. How…education. Maybe not that easy, but I can imagine another way around it.

    So back to the issue, I suppose when the time comes, I have to teach my kids about both sides of every aspect of life and let them choose. As a matter of fact it is what I do on a daily basis. Time will tell how efficient I was.

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