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Cell Phone Permit course teaches teens challenges, pitfalls, wins of having a smartphone

Knowing there are dangers when it comes to smartphone use, a Maple Grove couple created a cellphone safety course for teens that's similar to driver's education.

MAPLE GROVE, Minn. — As teens prepare to hit the road on their own, they go through drivers education to get a permit so they understand the dangers of driving.

Knowing there are also dangers when it comes to cellphone use, a married Maple Grove couple decided to create a "permit" safety course for teens.

Jonathan and Joanne Brozozog have eight kids, ranging from ages 16 down to 1-year-old twins. In addition to being the pastors of Creative Church, they tour the nation, sharing parenting lessons they've learned along the way. A big one in their books was the time their eldest wanted a smartphone.

"I was like, 'Ehhh, I don't want to give you one yet because I just see kids and their phones are in their face all the time,' and I'm like, 'There's just so much out there and I don't know what you're going to get into,'" Joanne said.

Credit: KARE 11
Jonathan and Joanna Brozozog and their kids.

Cyberbullying, age-inappropriate content — multiple studies show a correlation between the rise in smartphone use and the rise in depression among teens.

"If someone sends an inappropriate picture to my student and forwards that to another student, and that student forwards it to another student, it could be trafficking child porn and most parents don't realize this until they're hiring attorneys," Jonathan said.

The Brozozogs were determined to educate not only their kids, but other families as well.

"We're not anti-phone no more than we're anti-car or anything like that," Jonathan said. "It's just there's no seatbelts. There's no airbags. There's no training like there is for an automobile and we need it and we looked. We couldn't find anything in America."

"That's why we had to come up with something that would help them," Joanne said.

Similar to driver's education, they developed a program called Cell Phone Permit.

"You just don't get your license, you get a permit first and you drive with a parent," Jonathan said. "This curriculum is eight hours that you can do with a parent or guardian and walks them through those steps about how to learn about the challenges, pitfalls, and also the wins of having a cellphone before they get it."

Available for individuals and classrooms, in-person and online, the course covers healthy social media usage. Curriculum includes: Protecting your Identity, the Addictive Design, My Digital Tattoo, and more.

"A few of the positive things that we also teach in the course is how to build your business through your phone because you can do that over your phone and social media," Joanne said, "It doesn't always have to be negative."

The Cell Phone Permit program costs around $150 per student. Companies are encouraged to sponsor students so they can attend for free.

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