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.

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.

Lost Phone, Kids- It’s The Third Time…

If your kid loses phones over and over…do they need to have one?

A 1/2 gallon milk carton that has a message" Have you seen this lost phone?" It mimics the missing child messages on milk cartons. The images is from PC World
source: PC World

Dear Ms. Smartphone: My son, age twelve, just came home from day camp and when we checked his backpack, his phone was missing. This is the third time he has lost a phone this year. I like him to have a phone so that we can stay in touch, but this is getting ridiculous. What do you think I should do? Phoebe, Fairfax

Dear Phoebe: There are a couple of ways to approach this. You could text him every hour to remind him to guard his phone and turn on its GPS to track the location. But seriously, first ask, is he losing other things too, say hoodies and lunchboxes? If so, consider mindfulness training. Or, maybe, as this mom suggests, a smartphone is just too dear, and too much of a responsibility for many kids.

It’s expensive to keep replacing smartphones, so there are at least two alternatives: get your son a prepaid phone that comes with limited minutes, or have him wear a watch that just receives messages and texts.

But, before you consider either option, step back and consider why a twelve year old needs to carry a phone at all times. Did you know that kids are safer now in public than they have ever been? The rate of kidnappings, abductions, and other horrible things is infinitesimally small. As a parent, you should know where your twelve year old is at all times. Since it’s summer, and he’s at day camp, consider forgoing the phone, at least until school begins. That short abstinence might be a sufficient lesson to be less forgetful!