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Parenting in the Technology Age: Teens and Distracted Driving - Dr. Charles Fay


Part 1: Parenting in the Technology Age: Real Solutions

Part 2: Parenting in the Technology Age: Setting Limits

More and more really good kids are getting in big trouble with cell phones.

Teachers are pulling their hair out over students who spend more time text messaging than learning. Some students are even using phones to take inappropriate pictures of test answers… and each other!

Teen drivers and cell phones create havoc… and death!

Here is a true story involving one quick choice and less than four seconds.

Ryan, a new driver of 16, was driving the speed limit of 35 miles per hour through a quiet residential neighborhood. His destination, the high school, was less than two miles away. Ryan heard his phone make a ping sound and looked down to see who was texting him. Before he could look up to correct himself, he collided with a parked car and died of his injuries.

Teens and Distracted Driving [GuardChild]

Distracted driving comes in many forms ranging from changing a radio station, to having a conversation with someone in the vehicle, to texting or talking on a mobile device.

The National Safety Council reports two out of three teens admit they use apps when driving. They also report that 27% of teens admit to texting while driving.

According to GuardChild, each year 21% of fatal car crashes that involve teenagers between ages 16-19 were the result of cell phone usage. Even more concerning, this number is expected to grow as much as 4% every year.

Teen drivers are four times more likely than adults to experience a crash or near crash when talking or texting on a cell phone. Research shows, in terms of distracted driving, of all the potential tasks related to cell phones, including talking, dialing or simply reaching for the phone, texting while driving is the most dangerous.

In our audio, Teens and Technology, we provide practical strategies for navigating the challenges of parenting in this digital age. These include strategies for helping kids make good decisions about cell phones, the web, social media, video games, coping with cyber bullying, etc.

What Can We Do As Parents

Are you increasingly finding yourself in battles with your kids over huge cell phone bills, lost phones, stolen phones, damaged phones, phones being used at the dinner table and while driving, phones being taken away at school, etc.? What can you do to relieve the stress that comes with these battles? Here are some suggestions:

        -   Be a good model. Don't use your phone while driving, and show respect for others by turning it off when you should.

        -   Let your teen know that they can have a phone only when they can pay for the privilege.

        -   Don't fall into the trap of believing that your kid has to have a phone for safety reasons.

        -   If the phone is lost, stolen, or taken away at school, it's gone. Don't buy them another.

        -   Take it away if it becomes a problem.

While this advice may seem old-fashioned, parents who follow it raise far more respectful and responsible kids.

40% of teens in the U.S. say they have been in a car when the driver was using a cell phone in an unsafe manner. [GuardChild] Every parent must ask themselves:

        -   Am I using my phone while driving?

        -   Do I control my phone, or does my phone control me?

        -   Have I admitted to my teen that I can't ensure that they survive?

The first two questions are simple and straightforward. As we all know, actions speak louder than words. Children get their first driving lessons as soon as they reach the size allowing forward-facing car safety seats. Kids rarely develop better self-control than what they see possessed by their parents.

The final question is less obvious, yet extremely important. Do our teens know that their lives depend on the quality of their own decisions? Or have we led them to believe that we can somehow rescue them from every poor choice they make?

            Parent: “Do you think I can make sure that you don’t make a deadly decision behind the wheel… like drinking and driving… texting… or something else?”

            Teen: “What do you mean? I guess no.”

            Parent: “You’re right. As much as I wish that I could always keep you from making a tragic mistake, who needs to be the one who does this?”

Allow me to leave you with one final thought. Never before have parents been forced to navigate such an unfamiliar landscape. Attempting to shield our kids from all of the temptations of the digital age is unrealistic.  Doing so also leaves them unprepared to handle such temptations when we aren’t there to protect them. On the other side of the coin, allowing them to roam the digital landscape without proper supervision and limits is also unwise.  

Every choice matters. The sooner our kids learn this, the better.

Thanks reading our blog series Parenting in the Technology Age! We hope this helps you with your children as you continue to navigate through the technology age.

Part 1: Parenting in the Technology Age: Real Solutions

Part 2: Parenting in the Technology Age: Setting Limits


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