We all know that growing up isn’t easy. Teens face many tough decisions on important issues in their day-to-day lives. Technology also brings a host of new challenges for teens that many parents aren’t familiar with and didn’t face as teens themselves. The problem is that making smart choices is rarely considered trendy or cool – like choosing not to text and drive. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s biennial survey on youth risk behaviors, nearly 65 percent of students who drove a car admitted to engaging in texting while driving.
What sets texting while driving apart from other risky behaviors like tobacco or drug use is that cell phones were created to be helpful not harmful. They are devices that allow you to connect with anyone on the go and meant to fit an increasingly mobile world. Now, our inability to disconnect puts us in the proverbial “driver’s seat” when it comes to how we choose to handle distractions behind the wheel. The constant need for connection is so strong that when we hear our cell phones buzzing, we feel a need to respond immediately.
The first way to effectively influence your teen’s behavior is to start channeling the age-old saying, “actions speak louder than words” and lead by example. In a recent survey by Liberty Mutual Holding Co., 42 percent of teens said they have asked their parents to stop texting behind the wheel.
While it’s important that we engage in meaningful conversation with teens about the dangers of texting while driving, our words will fall on deaf ears if we fail to follow our own advice. Make it a point to refrain from texting and driving. Without saying a single word, you can show your kids that driver safety and attentiveness is of utmost importance – no matter one’s age.
Parents can also set a good example by posting “#X” on their various social media accounts or to pause a text message conversation before you get behind the wheel. By using #X, you’re letting your friends, family and most importantly your kids know that you are about to drive and won’t be responding to texts or other messages. If social media isn’t your thing, you can use “#X” to approach having a conversation with your kids about texting while driving. Together, you and your teen can see how others – including popular celebrities like Demi Lovato – are using #X Be sure to encourage your kids to use #X and share it with their friends too.
What’s more, research presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention reveals that parents themselves are often a source of distraction. More than half of the 408 teens who participated in the study reported being on the phone with a parent while driving. So, think twice before sending the text or calling when you know your kids is driving. Apps like AT&T’s DriveMode® can also help curb the urge to text and drive. The app also offers a parental alerts feature that will notify parents when their teen turns the app off.
Another tool parents can use to talk to kids about texting and driving is to take the It Can Wait® pledge against texting while driving together as a family. Today, on our third annual day of action, I encourage you all to take some time to visit ItCanWait.com and make your personal commitment to cut out texting while driving once and for all. You can also create a family pledge contract that each family member can sign, indicating a pledge to not text and drive. By taking the pledge together, you also increase accountability.
Last but not least, when talking with your kids, remember to point out that texting isn’t the only distraction they might encounter behind the wheel. Engaging with social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter while driving is also a huge temptation teens have to resist. Unfortunately, taking selfies while driving has become increasingly common too.
Every driver has the power to help end texting while driving and prevent another life from being lost. By keeping your pledge and being mindful of our actions, we are showing young and future drivers that no text is worth a life.