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Teen driver safety: 5 ways to curb distracted driving

By: Neil Mitchell

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It’s not that Ashley Parson doesn’t trust her 16-year-old son—she does.

When she installed a Verizon Hum tracking device on the car he’s driving, she was simply taking a precaution.“I don’t even think he thinks about it, honestly,” Parson says about the tracking device.

From her phone, she can check her son’s safety score based on the number of times he takes a sharp turn, drives fast, brakes hard or hits the accelerator. Right now, Michael has a good safety score: 80 out of 100.

“It just lets me know his safety habits and where he is,” she says.

This proactive approach to parenting in our increasingly tech-engaged lives is encouraging—especially when compared to the data. Many parents think they have it covered. According to Magid’s annual Mobile Lifestyle Study, only 20% of adults ages 18-74 with children in their household are “very concerned” with the amount of time children spend using a smartphone. This is considerably less than the 36% of adults without children who are “very concerned” about the amount of time children in society spend using a smartphone.

This “more concerned about the other guy” mindset is worrisome, and when it’s applied to young drivers, it could be dangerous. According to the Center for Disease Control, motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death for American teens. National Teen Driver Safety Week, October 20-26, 2019, is now celebrating its 12th year, originally initiated to raise awareness of this sobering statistic and to prevent teen automobile fatalities.

But there are a few tech tweaks you can make to minimize your teen’s distracted driving with a phone—and help you keep your own eyes on the road, too.

1. Enable auto replies to texts while driving
Texting while driving is a widely recognized smartphone distraction and parental concern, but your phone has settings to block texts while driving. To change settings on your specific device, search for instructions related to “auto reply,” “driving mode” or “do not disturb” and your device name.

2. Employ safe driving features in Hum by Verizon
Connected car technology advancements include practical tools that help create responsible drivers. Hum by Verizon is one easy-to-install app example. Going beyond the basics, Hum offers a variety of innovations to make your teen’s driving experience safer. In addition to rescue features such as roadside assistance and crash detection, Hum features a personal Safety Score that assesses your teen's driving behaviors and calculates factors such as speeding, hard braking and sharp cornering.

3. Introduce your kids to safe driving content
Viral content and videos about teen driver safety on Buzzfeed, YouTube, Vice or other sites familiar to your teen can help create a memorable image as well as legitimize in their eyes the severity of the issue. Sharing safe driving content with your teen is a great way to grasp their attention and instill safe driving behavior.

4. Weave tech distraction into your driving instructions:
Getting behind the wheel those first few times is often stressful for teens. Taking the time to recognize and address tech distractions during these initial driving experiences—especially when you are providing instruction to your kids—can have a lasting effect on fledgling drivers. Turning off the phone or engaging safe driving settings during driving instruction could establish safe driving habits for life.

5. Model good driving habits for your kids
Lessons help, but demonstrations of healthy driving habits truly establish a foundation. If you don’t use your phone while driving, your kids will absorb this—it’s that simple.

Parents are the best role models of healthy tech usage and teen driver safety, so to ensure our children are informed, responsible drivers, share the knowledge and strategies to help them resist the urge to text or engage with their phones while driving. It is our hope that these tactics will establish lifelong—and life-protecting—smartphone behavior.

For related media inquiries, please contact story.inquiry@one.verizon.com

About the author(s): 

Neil Mitchell is media consultant, focused on digital and online safety. He has been working with Verizon on online safety issues for over a decade. Follow me: 

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Teach your child to identify reliable websites and sources

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Knowing how to spot a reputable web site is empowering—and an important step in developing your teen’s information literacy.

Does your child know how to swim? Are they in the process of learning? We can all agree that learning to swim is an essential life skill, something our wellbeing depends on. What if learning to identify good and valuable online resources was another crucial life skill that our well-being depends on? While it may not be a life or death situation, the ability to differentiate facts from fiction contributes to our success in school, helps foster better conversation and can prevent us from looking foolish. It’s become particularly important as digital publishing allows anyone to publish online—facts, news, satire and opinion—for better or for worse.

                                                       ____________________________

"To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use [it] effectively."

  The American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy
                                                      _____________________________
 

Reliable sources matter

From an academic perspective, your child needs to be able to cite good quality sources in their work. And for the 3 million Americans who don’t have access to Internet at home, more students are using their phones to do their homework. So, they need to be able to demonstrate that they are able to find information of value. 

For security, it is important to identify reliable and safe sites to prevent identity theft or unsafe interactions online. Financially, we need to be able to go to a site and assess the tone to know right away that something isn’t right or that we are about to be scammed.

Learning to identify reliable sources can be a great way for you and your child to spend time together online­. After all, most kids will use any excuse to get on a phone or tablet. Just like swimming, it takes practice, it is a learned skill and it takes time to train your mind to process the indicators. 

A good place to start

Here’s what I suggest: Start looking at resources online with your child at a young age. Point out to them what makes a site good and what makes it questionable. In your own time, seek out some sites that are not reliable (but not full of adult content and language) to take your child to those sites as well. You can’t expect them to learn or spot red flags if you are only showing them trustworthy sites. 

 TIP: Look for news sources with a widely published code of ethics and reputation for setting the record straight when a reporter makes a mistake.

 

Apply it to their everyday life

As your child gets older, spend some time reviewing the sources they are citing in their homework and reports. Ask them questions about the sources, such as more about the author or the organization. When they relay stories about fellow classmates at the dinner table, challenge whether they have proof or are just passing along hearsay and rumors. Keep them on their toes and make sure they took the time to examine where they get their information. 

How to know if a website is a reliable source

Below are basic indicators and questions your child can consider when evaluating online sources:

The URL

Just looking at the address of a website can give a lot of insight to how much value it has. The extension at the end of the website (example.com) indicates what category the website falls under. 

  •  .org: An advocacy website, such as a not-for-profit organization.
  • .com: A business or commercial site.
  • .net: A site from a network organization or an Internet service provider.
  • .edu: A site affiliated with a higher education institution.
  • .gov: A federal government site.
  • .il.us: A state government site. This may also include public schools and community colleges.
  • .uk (United Kingdom): A site originating in another country (as indicated by the 2 letter code)

Referrals and links

Always ask yourself about how you found the source. Were you directed to the website by a teacher? Did you come across it on a site that you already know is valid? Or did you come across it on a random social media? Is it a link in an email from someone you know or a forwarded email from someone you don’t know?

TIPHover your cursor over a link before you click on it. The destination URL will appear in the bottom left of most web browsers. If it looks different than the link, don’t click it.

Identify authority

Consider who is supplying the information. Who wrote the content or article? What do you find if you do a separate search on just their name? Do they provide links to their social profiles or to additional work? If so, those may provide clues to their intentions and credibility.

To further educate yourself and your child, check out this list of resources from the American Library Association about how to advocate for and find good resources online. 

For related media inquiries, please contact story.inquiry@one.verizon.com

This article was authored by staff at the Family Online Safety Institute, a nonprofit organization that works to empower parents to confidently navigate the digital world with their kids. It was originally posted on their Good Digital Parenting blog and republished here with permission.

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