Wherever people go today, cell phones seem always close at hand. At a ballgame, walking down a street, sitting in the home or even, as ring tones during a homily attest, in a church. People love their cell phones.

A Pew Research Center report this year pegged cell phone ownership among adults (18 and over) at 85 percent in the United States. A marketing firm projects that soon more than half of children ages 8 to 12 will own a cell phone.

Powerful new mobile devices make possible unprecedented communication and access to information on the Internet. They are attractive to all age groups, but especially to young people. With the excitement of using shiny new gadgets comes the potential for abuse. {{more}}

Parents need good information on how to keep their children and teenagers safe as they use technology through cell phone calls, text messages, email, social media web sites and other communications.

Young people who participate in Catholic-sponsored activities rely on pastors, parish and school staff and volunteers to know the potential benefits and dangers of technology so the adults can give wise guidance and be trusted to maintain appropriate contact.

For this reason the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced last week a plan to strengthen its program of technology training for all Church personnel and volunteers who work with young people. The Archdiocese’s Standards of Ministerial Behavior, which details acceptable behavior, was updated with new standards for information and communication technology. Both the full Standards document (bit.ly/AOPministerialstandards) and its new addendum (bit.ly/AOPstandardstechaddendum) are available on the web site of the Archdiocese.

All priests, deacons, staff and volunteers who come into contact with children currently must acknowledge they have read and abide by the Standards document. Before June 30, they must also complete a 15-minute online training for the technology addendum.

Adults working in the Church will learn about appropriate interaction with minors using technology. Even people not working with children directly can become more aware of inappropriate behavior by adults.

The addendum to the Standards of Ministerial Behavior represents a new way to strengthen the Archdiocese’s policies to safeguard children.

It helps the Church, and the wider society, protect children as they use the emerging comunication tools of our age to explore our increasingly complex world.