Safe Walk to School or Phone?

Mom worries about using
phones and earbuds when kids walk to school.

This is a logo for safe routes to school in Marin County, Ca.

Dear Ms. Smartphone: A Mom question- do you think it’s safe for an 11 year old that walks to school to have a phone? There are several big streets to cross, and I worry that he will be looking at his phone instead of the road. My son says everyone has a phone and most of the kids do walk to school in our neighborhood. D.D., Tiburon

Dear D.D.: A couple of thoughts on the question you pose. First, congratulations on living in a neighborhood where children can walk to school. Many schools, including the one in your town, have Safe Routes to School programs and you can get more involved with their training. Two communities I know of, Honolulu, Hi. and Montclair, Ca. have banned pedestrians from using phones and earbuds when crossing intersections, but it is not clear that there is much enforcement.

That said, don’t over-worry. Talk over the safety issues with your son and make a ‘compact’ with him to follow the advice from Safe Routes to School. Personally, I would threaten to take the phone away if you find he uses it while crossing streets. Explain that he needs to focus for the full time.

There is a lot of confusion around phones and pedestrian safety. On the one hand, the percent of traffic deaths involving pedestrians has soared from 12% to 16% between 2008 and 2018. During the same time period phone ownership surged, and car safety improved. However, this could be a spurious correlation. Seventy five percent of the pedestrian fatalities occur after dark. It is also known that 32% or more of the ped fatalities are alcohol related. As in distracted driving, it’s hard to get the ‘real’ rate when phones (or marijuana/drugs) are involved.

You are right to question whether kids, phones, and walking mix well. One obvious point is to make safety and phones an everyday lesson, and make it a new discussion point with the November 3 switch to Daylight Savings Time.

How Often to Call?

Do daily phone calls to college kid interfere with independence?

Mom and Daughter talk on phone. THis is a tattoo.
source: staygram and moxietattoo

Dear Ms. Smartphone: My daughter started college this month and her school is about 3 hours from home. I am in the habit of calling her everyday and texting too. We chat about everything. Most of my friends think this is OK but one of them says that I should call less- because I am not letting her grow up. What do you think? Vivian, Sausalito

Dear Vivian: When I went to college my parents and I agreed to speak with each other on Sundays, and I had to wait for their call at the dorm’s payphone. New technology brings us new expectations and new etiquette! I have boys and sometimes there is less chit-chat. I miss that.

That said, many girls now report that their mothers are their best friends. Perhaps your daughter feels less need to reach out to new people in college as she bonds with the people back home. Importantly, if you are giving advice to your daughter and helping her make important decisions, she may not be developing the self-sufficiency she needs to navigate the world on her own.

Today’s teens seem less prepared and more fragile. In 2011, the American College Health Association reported 31% of female freshman reported anxiety or panic attacks. In 2016, the rate was 62%.

I am not saying that phone calls and staying-in-daily contact will be harmful. I do recommend that you not get in the way of her judgment and decision making…even when you find that to be sub-optimal. She needs to become independent and resilient. Note that at the other end of the age spectrum it changes: many older people ‘live for‘ the daily phone call and encouraging words from their adult children. This is a short answer to a long tailed issue.

Posting Kids Pics?

Are parents naive when they post kids pictures on social media like Instagram and Facebook?

source: deviantart

Dear Ms. Smartphone: Should I speak up? My nephew has two girls, ages 5 and 9. They are active and photogenic, and he set up an Instagram site for their pictures. In one of the posts the girls are lying on their backs, without tops. It looks suggestive. I’m not a prude, but it strikes me wrong. Dave, Brentwood

Dear Dave: If this photo was a one-off and not typical of his posts, maybe you should let it go. But otherwise, say something….it’s more about the ‘how’. First ask whether your nephew has thought of restricting access to the site to family members and personal friends. That said, one of them might still re-post.

The Child Rescue Coalition claims that 90 percent of children have been featured on social media by age 2. Most parents believe pictures of their children in the bath or naked are simply innocent snapshots of childhood and don’t realize that their postings can go far and wide.

An Australian source estimated that one half of 45 million child-porn images it found online were sourced from social media. They explain that while the photos copied from social media would not be considered exploitation material on their own, they were often accompanied by comments that ‘exploit’ the child.

A couple of years ago NPR did a piece you might want to replay for your nephew. Children have privacy rights, and may not want their parents to be sharing their pictures and stories. Think of it this way: a parent needs to set a good example for kids: weighing the social benefits of building community, and posting good photography and happy moments versus the lewder issues and privacy.

What to post- when not to post: It’s a thoughtful lesson for parents to discuss with their kids, item by item. And, it might explain why the number of Insta sites for dogs just grows and grows.