We wouldn’t toss car keys to a teenager without receiving appropriate instruction and earning a permit. So why do we hand over the responsibility of a mobile device to our children (many younger than 10 years old) with only a verbal warning about the dangers of the Internet and social media?
Plymouth resident and mother of eight Joanne Brozozog is changing the way we introduce safe technology and digital citizenship to adolescents. She and her husband, Jonathan Brozozog, developed Cell Phone Permit, an interactive comprehensive course teaching students to navigate the challenges and opportunities that come with owning a cell phone.
The idea came when their oldest son, Alexander, was 14. “I wouldn’t give him a cell phone because teenagers and adults are consumed by it, and I know it’s free access to the Internet and opens doors to ... all these negative things,” Joanne says. “But there's also a lot of positive.”
So, they created the only nonprofit, stand-alone course in America that educates kids how to manage a cell phone properly before they get it, challenging them to consider the benefits and pitfalls. “If we set them up for success, they’re going to be much better stewards,” Jonathan says.
All sixth grade students at Heritage Christian Academy participated in the Cell Phone Permit course in 2021. “In a society that stresses the need to have a cell phone 24/7, there has been little instruction on how to use these devices wisely,” says Scott Thune, the middle school and high school principal at Heritage Christian Academy. “Cell Phone Permit has tackled the problem of teaching young phone users practical digital citizenship as it relates to cell phones.” Heritage Christian Academy is one of four Minnesota schools (Maranatha Christian Academy, Creative Academy and North Heights Christian Academy are the remaining three) to implement the Cell Phone Permit in the school.
Overall, the purpose of the program is for change to happen before it’s too late. “My goal is for parents to become more knowledgeable in what their students are walking through and for teenagers to understand what they’re doing and the long-term effects to it,” Joanne says.
Cell Phone Permit Course
The course is available for anyone, but the Brozozogs gear it to those ages 10–15, who either don’t have a cell phone or need discipline with their phone use. Offering it digitally (eight-hour course) or in-person (18 hours of interactive classroom discussion), the topics addressed but not limited to are texting, addiction, mental health, social media, cyberbullying, digital tattoo and long-term effects, gaming, mature content, screen time, consequences and hate speech. Students and parents also sign a parent-regulated Cell Phone Permit accountability agreement by the end of the course.
For more information on the program’s details, visit cellphonepermit.com.
Cell Phone Permit @cellphonepermit