The 11th Commandment

The 11th Commandment: ‘Thou Shall Turn Off Thy Cell Phone’

by Danny Foster, Esq.

One of the rites of passage for most Jewish teenagers is when they become Bar Mitzvah (boy) or Bat Mitzvah (girl). It’s a formal entry into adulthood in the Jewish community, even if the teenager is only 13-years-old. I guess way back in the old days 13-years-old was already a proper age to get married and start a family, so adulthood made sense. In Colorado, and the rest of the United States, you are not considered adult until age 18; that’s when the stupid actions of youth become adult criminal behavior with life-long repercussions. In some circumstances a teenager under the age of 18 can actually be prosecuted as an adult if the crime is particularly violent. But this isn’t an article about the juvenile criminal justice system, it’s about my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah which occurred in February right here in Denver at Temple Emanuel.

Along with the teenager’s studying, stressing and celebration (can you say Lox, bagels and a great DJ?), the parents also undergo their own rite of passage, which is giving a small talk to their child in front of the congregation. I usually do not relish the spotlight (yeah right!) but I was particularly excited to talk to my daughter and let her know that I was proud of her, that I loved her very much, and as my parental piece of advice I urged her and her friends, siblings and cousins to do us all a favor and power off their iPhones once in a while. Yes, my Bat Mitzvah talk was about re-connecting with the real world and to stop being a robot to the iPhone. No meaningful connections happen on Snapchat, Facebook or Twitter. Face-to-face communication is a lost art form and it is dooming their generation to becoming senseless drones. I challenged Lucy and her friends/siblings/cousins to make a meaningful attempt to pick one day a week where they simply unplug. It is, after all, possible to do that. In my house we have a rule, whoever rides shotgun in the car may not be on their phone at all. It’s a small step, but I honestly fear my children won’t be able to navigate their way around Denver because they haven’t been watching the scenery while we drive. Insanity!

Another more important issue about this generation and technology is the real legal trouble they are getting into, often unwittingly, due to their over active iPhone addiction. Our law firm has represented too many adolescents and teenagers who have faced significant legal problems as a result of things they posted or looked at. Criminal behavior that was unthinkable 10 years ago. Did you know that if a minor sends your child a picture of them naked, then YOUR child can be guilty of possessing child pornography? Even if they didn’t request the pictures. And guess who else could be in trouble? How about the person who owns the phone (yes, YOU parents!).

It’s a brave new world. Due to these issues and many other land mines associated with modern-day adolescence and teenage life our law firm has for several years conducted seminars at high schools to discuss these issues face to face with the students. A few years ago we expanded our seminar program and created “Get Ready for High School Boot Camp” for all students grade 8-11 AND their parents. We try to give some useful advice about drugs/ alcohol, sext-ing, Internet bullying and other crimes, and hopefully enable parents and children to begin the difficult dialogue on very tricky, complicated issues that are incredibly important.

Our law firm invites you to attend on April 25 or April 26 from 6-8 p.m. Or April 27 from 6-8 for high school seniors heading into college. There is no charge, the only requirement is that the child must attend with at least one parent/guardian. The seminar is capped at 100 total people per night, so if interested book ASAP. The link to register is /bootcamp. (In the event this fills up and you are unable to get into the seminar, make sure to go to and sign up for our quarterly newsletter and you will be the first to learn about upcoming seminars and other legal hot topics.)

While I cannot promise Lox and bagels at this seminar we can promise you will walk away with something much more valuable. And while my daughter was embarrassed that I called her technology use out at her Bat Mitzvah, I saw a whole lot of parents nodding their heads in agreement. Many of them came up to me afterwards and thanked me for saying exactly what needed to be said. It’s time that we as parents took back control and had our kids tune into the greatest reality show on the planet.... it’s called LIFE and the wi-fi is always free and there’s no chance of running over on your data plan!

Danny is a managing partner of Foster, Graham, Milstein & Calisher (FGMC). His practice focuses on personal injury. The law firm of FGMC, located in Cherry Creek, is a full service law firm focusing on: criminal defense, personal injury, real estate, litigation, liquor licensing, construction law, tax/estate planning, bankruptcy and zoning. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship and is for informational use only (what do you expect from an attorney!)

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