Should I secretly install a device that can track my teen’s distracted driving?
Dear Ms. Smartphone: My car insurance offered me a “black box” to install in the car. It will report things like the speed, sudden braking, and whether I am using the phone. My teen shares this car with me. She seems to be a good driver and I wonder if I need to tell her about the box. Adrian, Boston
Dear Adrian: Readers may disagree but I think you should tell your teen. I would also use the tracking device in a more active way. When these reporting devices are installed in vehicles claim rates go down. And, real-time feedback helps drivers learn to drive better. It is important, at any age, to take steps against distracted driving. Here is a serious article with a funny ending- the founder of a company that provides these devices getting rear-ended at a red light!
Dear Ms. Smartphone: I am a stay-at-home Mom and drive a carpool for my son and two girls, grades 8 and 9. They all take out their phones as soon as they get in my car. I try to ask them questions about school or find songs on the radio they might like. That doesn’t work. Their lack of talk makes makes me feel very sad and I am coming to dislike doing the carpool. Leslie, Strawberry
Dear Leslie: The situation you describe is probably felt by Moms and Dads everywhere…even if they wish for carpool karaoke! ‘Digital etiquette’ may not be something you can teach other people’s children, but start where you can. Have your son sit up front and ask him to put away his phone. If you know the other parents gently probe their own feelings about this. It’s a no-win situation: teens could be checking their assignments, looking at social media, or even texting each other about the Mom driving the car!
Dear Ms. Smartphone: I would like to have better communications with my family. But it’s confusing. My mom seems to always be on the phone when I get home from school. When we have a family dinner, it seems like everyone has their phone next to them. But,I Skype my Grandparents weekly and I talk with my Dad, who lives out-of-state, almost every day. Ken, Penngrove
Dear Ken: Your observations are pretty astute. It’s been said that the technology makes us closer to people who are farther away, and more distant with people who are close by. It varies by age too, so as you get older you might find a different set of experiences to share with nearby family .
When cell phones were fairly new (2008) Pew did a large survey and identified the blurring of work and family life but did not (yet) see an impact on parent/child relationships. Times have changed! Take a look at this 2018 advise from PBS Parents and a Harvard trained pediatrician. She was fascinated (and alarmed) by the cultural change she saw as parents rapidly adopted mobile devices. You cannot change your parents, but you can set an example- communicate with them as you would like them to communicate with you.