Cell phones and Blackberries are increasingly drawing the ire of educators and law enforcers. Although the vast majority of teens use cell phones to keep in touch with their families or social networking, these devices are being used, increasingly, for negative and/or illegal purposes.

In recent months, there have been a number of cases involving students using cell phones to send sexually explicit photographs to one another. Recently, a 16-year-old boy was charged with a felony for sending nude photos of himself to the cell phones of female students who didn't want them.

Text messages and camera phones are being used to cheat on tests. Cell phones also are being used to bait students into fights. In one case, a student recorded the altercation on a cell phone and showed it off to students at school the next day.

Students have used text messaging to spread horrible gossip regarding the deaths of fellow classmates. School administrators have had to interrupt class time with overhead announcements to counteract such rumors.

Parents are not powerless when it comes to their children's use of this technology. It can safely be assumed that most parents pay for their children's cell phone usage. It is not a violation of a child's privacy to occasionally inspect their phones to ensure they are being used appropriately.

That means parents need to be familiar with cell phone technology. These devices are relatively simple, but most teens and tweeners are far more technologically adept than their parents. This is all the more reason for parents to keep their skills up to date.

In many respects, personal communication devices are a child's currency. Many would prefer to be grounded or have their driving privileges removed to having a parent take away their cell phone or Blackberry. It's almost as if they're tethered to these devices.

Cell phones are useful in many situations, whether keeping in touch with parents or in times of emergency. But parents are well within their rights to take them away if they are being used in a manner that is harmful or violates school rules or the law, just as they would take the car keys if a child was driving recklessly or while impaired.