Search the site

Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Controlling the Cell Phone

Cell phoneMost of us admit—what started as a convenience or even a device for emergencies has become a necessity. I am speaking about our cell phone. In the beginning, I told myself I would only use it once in a blue moon, and only for dire needs. Yeah, right. Today, I make dozens of calls a day. The average teen texts 3,000 times a month from their cell phone. In fact, in a recent nationwide survey, adolescents said they put this kind of technology in the same category as “air and water.” It’s a necessity to live. So, why can’t we just enjoy this new convenience?

We can, of course. But there are other factors we must consider.

More than one research firm predicts that within two years, 90% of the data transmitted through technology will be images. You read that right. Not words but pictures. We are moving more and more toward an image-rich culture. More toward a right-brain approach to everyday subjects, like communication, advertising and media. (I saw this coming, and it’s part of the reason why we created our series: Habitudes—Images that Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes.) Our problem is—images get caught in our minds. Good or bad, they stick. And while we intend to use this reality for good, much of the imagery being sent is far from helpful.

Consider this. Teens and twenty-somethings are sending millions of erotic videos and photos to each other. And these become viral. Its called “sexting.” In 2008, one in five girls sent a nude photo of themselves or a friend via cell phone. The majority of males have seen a female student in a nude or sexual pose. It starts like this:

* A girl and guy are dating. She sends him an erotic photo of herself, often at his request. Later, they break up. Out of spite, he sends this photo everywhere.

* Students sit in a computer lab. It is not supervised as closely as it should be. One student captures a photo and tweets, texts or links it, which begins a viral trajectory.

* Every generation of kids have heir own version of “Truth or Dare.” Today, with cameras on cell phones, random photos can be taken and sent as a dare, gone awry.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not giving up my cell phone. But we must discover how to lead this next generation who are experiencing hormone changes and puberty—with a weapon like a cell phone in their hands. It all usually begins in middle school. Too often, the act of “sexting” has led girls to suicide. So, what do we do? Let me suggest three ideas:

  1. Talk about it before middle school. Beat their peers to the thrill by explaining how damaging this can be to someone. Ask how they’d feel if someone did it to them.
  2. Monitor their cell phone and Facebook page, if they still live at home. Talk about it so it’s not a secret, but remind them accountability is good, and prevents harm.
  3. Work with schools to communicate sexting is illegal/immoral. Teen sexting leads to criminal charges; and when photos get sent to another state it’s a federal offense.

What other thoughts do you have? Any other ideas on controlling the cell phone?

Find out more about how technology impacts this generation,
read Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future.


  1. Nikirembold on March 12, 2012 at 5:59 am

    We block pics on the cell phone from being sent or received.

    • Tim Elmore on March 12, 2012 at 7:59 am

      Great, practical suggestion! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jackie on March 13, 2012 at 11:09 am

    It is challenging! Our 16 year old finally lost his phone after many attempts at teaching “communication” and stewardship.  First paying per text for a few months (even though unlimited plan). Then paying the entire bill if he uses more than the rest of the family (totaled) and he did! We went through many steps and he understood the ramifications of his practice. The public school, bad examples and no accountability in their rules didn’t help. Now we have an “extra phone” on family plan and have to pay until contract ends.  He has purchased his own phone and is paying as he goes.  Hard lesson to learn but he is much “softer” to letting us keep him accountable. WE have a rule that the phone goes on the counter in the kitchen at night or it is gone for a week.  Keeps from late nights laying in bed with phone. It takes maturity and many adults don’t exemplify it well. 

    • Tim Elmore on March 23, 2012 at 3:19 pm

      These are great practical ways to address this issue. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Trent Thomas on March 13, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Wow!  I see a great need to talk about this more and create awareness among adults.  I fear that this is happening on a large scale and it is only going to increase unfortunately.  If we, as concerned adults, can create more awareness, we might be able to slow down the increase.  Thanks for the post!

    • Tim Elmore on March 23, 2012 at 3:23 pm

      Yes, awareness is a huge part of the solution!

  4. preteen step mom on March 17, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Let them know that as a condition to having a phone means that I have access to looking through it.

    • Tim Elmore on March 23, 2012 at 3:23 pm

      That is a very effective suggestion. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Andersdj1 on March 25, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Some service providers allow parental control features that allow you to set time parameeters for phone use or texting or dialing restricitons during school hours such as calling only parents and emergency. You can turn off phone actions during sleeping hours. Verizon features monthly rate from 2.99 to 5.00 dollars a month

    • Tim Elmore on March 25, 2012 at 9:46 pm

      Thanks for sharing that info. Many people may not be aware of the tools available to help manage cell phone usage. I would always encourage parents to have face-to-face conversations along with using these tools. Having teens understand the reasoning behind it is just as important as them actually following the rules parents set!

Leave a Comment

Controlling the Cell Phone