Driving while texting. There are no three words parents want to see less associated with their teens, not even high school dropout, and the amount of time parents take to carefully explain the dangers of distracted driving begins to sound more like a sermon than a safety speech. However, Penn research shows teens are well aware of the dangers of texting while driving. Being aware doesn’t always make them change their behavior, but you’re not giving them any new information when you tell them it’s unsafe.
Then Why Do Teens Still Text While Driving?
The main thing researchers discovered while interviewing teen drivers is that they have a sliding scale of how dangerous the use of technology is, based on a given situation. For example, teens as a whole considered social media use to be separate from texting, which is not something that most adults do. When an adult hears “texting while driving,” they often think of that as any use of a phone that isn’t actually making a phone call while behind the wheel. Teens broke down the risk by activity, meaning there are lots of different categories of device use, each with its own risk factors.
What particular activity was being done was only a part of the formula that went into a teen’s behavior, though. Another factor was when a teen was texting. Teens as a whole seemed to feel that texting at a stoplight or while stopped at a stop sign is not texting while driving because they aren’t going anywhere. Additionally, who they were responding to carried a lot of weight. If it was a significant other, or a parent, then a teen was much more likely to respond immediately than if it was just a casual friend. Additionally, if the message was in regards to where they were currently driving (such as if the friend they’re meeting for lunch texts them en-route), a teen was much more likely to respond to that message.
Risk Assessment Is Still Developing
We all know that teenagers’ brains have not yet fully developed. They’re reaching the end of their maturation, but one of the key factors that teens are lacking when compared to adults is a real sense of risk assessment. It’s the reason why teens will do things like surf down a steep hill in a junkyard in their underwear; because, to their brains, the very real risk of bodily harm just isn’t outweighed by the social benefits of doing something daring.
The same is often true of using a mobile device while behind the wheel. Teens who haven’t had a negative experience as a result of distracted driving often have trouble putting it into real perspective. The risks are all theoretical, and while the more obvious dangers are avoided, the gray areas aren’t always until they mature.
How Do We Get Our Teens to Drive More Safely?
The easiest way to help ensure that your teens not driving and using social media or texting…even at the stop sign is to have frank, open conversations with them about safe driving, and to establish rules early on that you both agree on. As parents, it is more important than ever that we teach our teens how to set boundaries. In the case of distracted driving LIVES depend on it! One of the most important boundaries comes in the form of how and when they use their social media accounts and texting capabilities. By giving your teens responsibility, and listening to their concerns, you are much more likely to get open, honest communication, and to engender respect for your rules and requests.
The great thing about technology rules and available parental tools is that they’re able to change and adapt in response to the unique needs of your family. It is always easier to help your teens to maintain a healthy relationship with technology when you use a parental control software.
Netsanity has a suite of services that I always recommend – If your teen has an iPhone, Netsanity has great features that include timeout options like Hideapps and Screenlock. They can be used on a regular basis to help your teen from using their mobile device for texting, or any other internet activity, to ensure they are focusing on other activities like driving a car! Keep in mind that Netsanity will be releasing an Android version soon for teens with Samsung Galaxy family of smart devices.