Talk To Your Kids About the Risks of Texting While Driving

A new survey from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that most teens admit that when they drive, they’re also texting and emailing.

The CDC surveyed 15,000 high school students about a variety of at risk behaviors. According to the survey, one in three high school students reported they had texted or emailed while driving during the previous 30 days.

A similar study, part of a project called Generation tXt, was presented recently at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Boston.

Thirty students ages 15-19 participated in the study. Using simulators, the teens drove under three conditions: 1) without a cell phone, 2) texting with the phone hidden so they had to look down to see texts and 3) texting with the phone in a position of their choice. The simulators recorded unintentional lane shifts, speeding, crashes/near crashes and other driving infractions.

Be sure to talk openly with your kids about the laws and risks tied to using their cell phone and texting while driving – officials say texting is the cause of about 16 percent of fatal car crashes involving teenagers. Moreover, 80 percent of vehicle crashes involve some sort of driver inattention, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Discuss these safety tips with your teens and set a good example by practicing these guidelines too.

  • Most important, let your kids know they need to obey the law. Texting is prohibited in most states. For more information on the texting laws in California visit the DMV website.
  • Make it clear – never text and drive. Let your teen know he should turn off his cell phone before he drives if necessary, to avoid temptation.
  • Check with your phone service provider and its app store. There may be an app you can download that prohibits sending and receiving texts when a car is in motion.
  • Have your teen to pull off the road, away from traffic, to use a cell phone to talk, text or use the Internet.
  • Let your teen know that if they’re riding in a car with a driver who is texting, they need to ask him or her to stop or not ride with that person again. Teens may be afraid to speak up to their friends – stress the importance of their safety, and how that should be their biggest concern.
  • Make consequences. If you catch your teen texting while driving, take away his or her driving privileges. Setting those ground rules will make them less likely to do it.
  • Discuss the major risks of other driving distractions too, such as grooming, eating, drinking or trying to reach something that has fallen on the floor.

For more on this timely topic, please visit the DMV website.

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Talk With Your Kids About Inappropriate Cell Phone and Internet Use

In a study released this month by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an increasing number of adolescents participate in “sexting,” which can include sending sexually explicit images of themselves or other minors by cell phone or the Internet.

Over 1,500 Internet users, ages 10 through 17, were surveyed about their experiences with appearing in, creating or receiving sexual images or videos. The study found that 2.5 percent of youth surveyed have participated in sexting in the past year. If sexting is defined as transmitting sexually suggestive images, rather than sexually explicit images, that number increases to 9.6 percent. Most kids who have participated do so as a prank or while in a relationship, and a significant number of the incidents included alcohol or drug use.

Study authors recommend that more young people are educated on the consequences of possessing or distributing sexually explicit images, which is currently treated as a criminal offense.

Experts agree that talking openly with your kids is a great way to learn how much your kids know about the topic, and an opportunity to discuss with them the potential consequences. Express how you feel in an age-appropriate, non-confrontational way. An ongoing, two-way dialog can go a long way in helping your kids understand how to minimize legal and social risks.

In many cases, kids are acting this way in response to peer pressure, in a form of cyberbullying or pressure from a boyfriend or girlfriend. Sometimes it’s impulsive behavior, blackmail, or flirting. Make sure they understand that sharing these type of images should be avoided via email and the web too – not just their cell phones. Let your kids know that in any case, this is activity they should not participate in or support.

For more information on kids and cell phones, please click here:
http://www.choc.org/publications/index.cfm?id=P00303&aid=621

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