I was at a high school football game the other night with family and took my youngest to the restroom. We ran into a group of teenagers waiting on a friend to finish, when she came out she went to wash her hands and the other girls all laughed and said “No one ever washes their hands, it is just something parents tell children to do anyway.” Such a simple thing as washing your hands has become a rebellion for teens on the basis that it is too childish. If teens ignore such a basic rule, how are we do get their attention on the really dangerous issues? Our teens are 23 times more likely to crash if they text while drive. How do we make an impact on our teens so when they are out on their own they will not ignore the rules we have set in place for them?
Be a role model – Sometimes we make the biggest impression on our kids when we do not even know they are looking. Never use your phone to read or write a text while driving. Pull over and stop the car when you have to answer a text so they learn that pulling over is a practical option. Make sure that any adult or older teen that drives with your child also practices this rule. It is important to never make exceptions or your teen will eventually become as complacent.
Have the talk – You have talked to them about drugs and alcohol but it is just as important to set down your rules and expectations about driving responsibly. It isn’t just one talk either, it is an open and ongoing discussion. When you hear something on the news about a crash be sure to ask them questions about how they feel about the news story and how such a crash would impact their lives. Set clear, firm limits with no leniency about zero tolerance of phone use while driving. Let your child know just how you feel and how important it is to take this seriously. Having good communication is essential and not just with your child but their friends as well.
Let them hear it from someone they admire – Sometimes it is not enough to hear it from parents, because we still treat them as children, but they understand it better from a school teacher, sports coach, older sibling, or other role model in their life. RADD has a great program for teens that sponsors celebrity endorsements and appearances to spread the word on the dangers of distracted driving.
Inform them of state laws – Some states have laws to enforce no texting bans or cell phone bans. Be sure to talk to your child about how these laws affect them. Make them responsible for any fines or increased insurance premiums as a result of breaking the law.
Get involved or Get your Teen Involved – There are hundreds of teen groups that offer incentives for spreading the word to ban texting and driving. Some of these sites include:
The most important things is to remember to communicate with your teen frequently in a way that works for your child. You have to know you can trust them with their own lives and the lives of everyone else that shares the road with them.