Texting, Driving and Your Kids

Filed under: Media, Expert Advice: Teens

kids, texting and driving

Thirty-four percent of teens with cell phones say they have texted while driving. Credit: Corbis

By now you've probably seen the dramatic PSA that graphically illustrates the dangers of texting while driving. Created by the local police station in Gwent, Wales, it's now an Internet sensation that's been viewed more than a million times on YouTube. The video plays like a movie car crash, showing a teen texting on her cell phone while driving with two other girls. Her car veers out of its lane and collides head-on with another car, which violently forces both cars off the road. The girls look at each other with bloodied faces -- thinking they survived -- only to be hit by a third car, resulting in apparent deaths.

Lots of screaming, screeching, and blood follow, all designed as a gut-wrenching deterrent to texting while driving. (It's hard to watch, and if your kids are already driving age or nearing it, you should view it first to determine whether you want to share it with them.)

Dramatic action aside, texting -- the #2 use of cell phones after checking the time -- has become a behavior that needs some non-negotiable rules.

Most kids who have cell phones probably got them because their parents wanted to be able to stay in touch. But billions of text messages are sent every year from our kids' mobile phones, and most of them are not to Mom and Dad. The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project conducted a survey that found 34 percent of teens with cell phones say they have texted while driving, which translates into 26 percent of all American teens. Fifty-two percent of teens ages 16-17 in the study admit to talking on the cell phone while driving, which translates into 43 percent of all U.S. teens aged 16-17.

The need for social interaction combined with the instant gratification of instant messaging results in a near-compulsion in some kids -- and many adults. Because the behavior begins so early -- some kids as young as third grade have cell phones -- it's easier to develop rules of acceptable behavior at an early age, rather than try to retroactively curb the behavior when kids start driving. Have you established texting rules in your home?

Tips for Safe Texting

  • Remain seated -- or at least stationary. Texting while you should be paying attention to where you're headed (walking, driving, etc.) is a dangerous -- to you and those around you.
  • Just let it ring or buzz. You can see who texted you after you stop driving. Throw the phone in the back seat if you don't have the will power. It's not worth dying over!
  • With great power comes great responsibility. Kids should follow safe texting rules in order to earn the privilege of owning a phone. For guidance on establishing rules for your family, see our tips on Responsible Text Messaging.
  • Monkey see, monkey do. Admit it, parents, how many times have you texted while driving or held a cell phone at the wheel despite hands-free laws? In our 24/7 society, it's really hard to resist the impulse to answer the phone as soon as it rings. But remember: Your kids are watching and will ultimately copy your behavior.

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Get more information for parents on media and technology by checking out Common Sense Media.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.