8 Tech Tools to Protect Your Teen Driver

Jayson Goetz–a young writer whose work primarily focuses on educating readers about the effects of science and technology on today’s society–is the guest writer for today’s blog.

This is excellent news, because I am… umm…  technologically challenged. I did not know half these things even existed!

Since they are very cool and might save your teen driver’s life, read on:

Protecting Teen Drivers with Technology

student_driverToday’s world is becoming increasingly saturated with technology. Refrigerators come with built-in touch screens, and your iPhone can control the thermostat. What does this mean for parents? Most children in the US have uninterrupted access to some form of technology. This statistic doesn’t sound scary when your teenager is curled up on the couch, but it’s a different story when they’re hurdling through space in two tons of metal and combustibles (a.k.a. driving).

So, where do you stand? Are you a technophobe, or a technophile? On one hand, text messaging makes drivers 23 times more likely to have an accident. On the other hand, technology can prevent accidents, help you monitor your child’s whereabouts, and facilitate hands-free phone calls and text messages.

If your teen is tech savvy and about to start driving, this guide is for you.

Physical Safety Features

First, the good news. As technology progresses, automobile manufacturers compete with one another as they tack on new safety features. That’s how consumers got cruise control, air bags, and seat belts. Today, these are all considered “standard” safety features, and that list is growing. If you’re out of the loop, check out this list of safety features that can protect your teen in the car:

  • Active Park Assist – will parallel park the vehicle without driver assistance
  • Adaptive Cruise Control – adjusts driver-set speed to account for distance from the vehicle ahead
  • Adaptive Headlights – adjusts illumination to accommodate for road conditions
  • Collision Warning System – alerts the driver of impending accidents
  • Drowsiness Alert – uses data to alert drivers when they need a break.
  • Electronic Stability Control – detects and reduces loss of traction during turns
  • Lane-Keep Assist – detects unintended lane changes and keeps the vehicle on course
  • 360-Degree Camera – displays the area around the vehicle to assist with parking

While all of these safety features are exciting, most of us have to budget for a new vehicle. My advice? Prioritize Electronic Stability Control, Lane-Keep Assist, and the Collision Warning System. These particular safety features are the most likely to protect inexperienced drivers from harm.

Hands-Free Features

Now for the bad news. Teen accidents are on the rise. In 2014, teens were involved in 4,272 accidents. In 2015, that number increased to 4,689. 2016 numbers aren’t in yet, but I can imagine that the trend will continue. Given than drivers under the age of 25 are three times more likely to text while driving, what can you do?

If you’re willing to spend the money, you can always purchase a vehicle with hands-free Bluetooth technology. Here of some of the feature to look for:

  • Text to Speech – translates text messages, status updated, and other notifications into speech
  • Speech to Text – allows user to dictate text messages, emails, and more
  • Vocalized GPS – vocalizes GPS directions through the speaker
  • Audio Streaming – streams audio from your device through the speaker
  • Voice Commands – allows user to activate various functions with their voice
  • Vocalized Caller ID – vocalizes incoming caller ID information
  • Voice Dialing – allows the user to dial with their voice

Now, these features are available in many new vehicles. I drive a used Honda Accord that comes with 6/7 of these features. You can also purchase a Bluetooth kit that comes with the features you really need.

Further Considerations

You’ve purchased a safe vehicle, and you’ve discouraged distracted driving? What’s left? My only other suggestions are low tech. If you run into trouble, try implementing a driving contract that includes rules and consequences for various driving scenarios. This will help your teen learn the rules and avoid negative consequences.

My last suggestion may seem obvious, but it’s critical: make sure you model good behavior. If your teen sees you texting while in the driver’s seat, they’ll be sure to model your behavior. That’s it! The rest is out of your hands.

8 Surefire Strategies to Make Rules Work (and 2 Corollaries)

A small boy playing

To succeed at this parenting thing, we need to not only have a set of rules with which to raise our children, we also have to teach those rules to our kids and enforce them evenly.

Children don’t handle inconsistency well; it frightens them and makes them feel insecure. Insecure children will act out endlessly both to see if anyone actually cares and to see if they can get away with it this time, since sometimes they can. Not fun. They also learn to play one parent against the other if you are not a consistent team, because they are smarter than you think they are.

Even if all the grown-ups in a child’s life don’t live in the same house they all have to agree on the basic rules and enforce them consistently, for the good of the children and the sanity of the grown-ups.

Last week’s blog was on why kids need rules; the week before discussed how a child’s developmental age affected rules.

This week’s blog is an outline for a framework of rules that work, and a guide on how to teach them to the kids. And Grandma. So.

The 8 Strategies that Make this Work:

  • The rules have to be reasonable, taking into account the child’s age and abilities. It would make no sense to rule that your one year old must use a fork; insisting that your eight year old do so is reasonable.
  • Try not to outlaw normal behavior. Fifteen month olds are going to climb on the furniture; five year olds will pretend to be lions. The “no lying” rule does not apply when playing pretend.
  • Never punish curiosity – we want that. Inappropriate questions can be answered with “I’m not going to discuss that with you,” rather than “You shouldn’t ask that.” Try to redirect curiosity, not punish it.
  • Try to make rules with your particular child in mind. Think about his personality, her abilities, their style. This combination of you, your child, and their particular environment has never before happened in the history of the world, so you get to decide what is best. Grandmas and books can only give you a general idea. If your child is a musician, cutting him off in the middle of a composition because it’s dinnertime would be failing him. If he is terrible at math, making him sit at the table alone until he finishes all of his homework may be torture. Consider your child when you make the rules.
  • Make sure they understand the rule and why it is important. “The rule is that you must wear the helmet every time you ride your bike, no exceptions.” Speak with authority, even if you can’t quite feel it. “We don’t make you wear the helmet to make you look dorky, we make you wear it because your head is fragile and we love you.” Keep the rules simple and easy to understand.
  • Rules should be consistent and predictable. Your child should be able to generally know what will be allowed and what will not, because all the rules form a cohesive whole. If it is a rule that he is not allowed to smoke or take drugs, and his new friend smokes and takes drugs, then he knows without asking that the answer is going to be no, he can’t hang out with his new friend unsupervised.
  • Rules have to be enforceable. Never fight a battle with a child that you cannot win. Set up the playing field ahead of time so that you do win. They are children; you can outsmart them. If they win, you have given up a lot of power you will need later. If you insist on her eating her creamed corn, what will you do when she refuses? You can’t force her to swallow. What you can do is enforce a “no junk food” policy. Don’t buy it. It’s not in the house. “Sorry kid, we don’t have that, but there’s fruit over there….” A win!
  • Last, try to make rules respectful of the child. Don’t condescend, especially if your child is a tween or teen. Never humiliate your child. It lessens them, when you want them to be more.

Teaching the Rules

So, we have rules. There aren’t too many, they make sense, and all the grown-ups have agreed on them. How do we teach them to the urchin?

First and most importantly, teach by example. You are the center of your child’s world. They see you. They watch and notice. Then they imitate, both because they love you and want to be like you, and because they want your approval. How much easier will parenting be if they copy your habit of honesty? How much more successful will you – and they – be if they strive to control their temper because they see you control yours? If they know it’s unacceptable to hit because they never see it at home?

Second, teach by explanation – making sure they understand – and then by repetition. When they are going to be in a situation that will give them the opportunity to break a rule, remind them that it exists. “Remember, you will get in more trouble for lying than for anything you did.” Repetition will always work, generally by the one hundred millionth time. Hopefully.

Lastly, teach by giving them the option for success within the rules. “You aren’t allowed to go to Jeremy’s house because his parents aren’t there. Would you like to invite him here or wait until his parents come home?” Let your child think of a solution that is within the rules. Kids can be very creative when they want something.

Changing the Rules

If you have not had many rules or have been lax about enforcing them, change will be painful. Expect rebellion.

They will probably act out and may initially become much worse, particularly for the first two weeks. They may even think the new rules make sense and secretly feel good that you care, but they will never let you know. As a general rule, it takes two weeks of absolute consistency to change a habit, be it a junk food addiction or a new curfew. After two weeks, the change becomes the new norm. They might still fight it, but they have gotten used to it, and they won’t put as much effort into the battle.

If you give in during that two weeks, it starts the timer over. Don’t give in.

Gang up on them. Everything will go more smoothly if you can get your children’s friends’ families to use similar rules. Imagine if all the kids had to do their homework, and all the teenagers had the same curfew! If that is not possible, at least communicate with the other parents, teachers, and daycare workers so that you know what their rules are, because your child will likely – um – mislead you as to what is allowed elsewhere.

The Important Stuff

Rules should be carefully considered so that they protect your children’s safety, teach them right from wrong, and help them function in society. Rules should be enforced equally by everyone involved in children’s lives, and need to be reasonable and understandable. They need to provide a framework that will allow kids to learn self-reliance and self-control. Rules, though restrictive and incomprehensible when done arbitrarily, are necessary and good when done with consideration for what is best for the child in the long run.

The Blogger's Pit Stop

To Each Their Own… Rules Custom Fit to Every Age Child

kidsfighting

Children may look sweet, but in reality they are cute little barbarians, and it is our job to civilize them. Their brains are not tiny adult brains. They start out with little more than primitive reflexes (breathe, cry, wave my arms around when I’m startled), wander through childhood and adolescence (when they really can’t see the long term consequences of their actions), and don’t actually think like adults until, well, they’re adults.

At all these ages parents have to take into account their child’s personal style, intelligence, and talents when they make rules, but there are developmental stages that are universal, and understanding them will help a parent better resolve problems.

When babies are newborn, they can focus their vision well at about a foot away—just the distance of your face when you are holding them. They look at everything, learning at an unimaginable rate. By two months they recognize a smile and smile back. By four months, they will recognize your voice. Their thoughts aren’t well organized enough to allow them to become spoiled until about six months – so no, you can’t spoil them by holding them all the time. You also won’t do them vast harm if you need to put them down for a while.

At about nine months, they start to recognize words—“no” is generally one of the first. In baby language “no” means, “Smile at the parental units and keep doing what I’m doing. They will come play!” Saying it louder will only make them cry in confusion. Go over, distract them, and take away whatever they shouldn’t be playing with.

Curiosity rules for the first few years, and we want this. Babies look at and touch everything, often while putting everything in their mouths. They explore and, consequently, learn. Your job is to let them explore while keeping them safe. This is a lot easier to do by baby-proofing your house than by saying no every minute or two. Put all of the breakables out of reach, tuck away the electric cords, add padding to some of the more solid objects, and block off the stairs so you don’t have to follow Baby around all day. She’s not going to fully understand rules now anyway.

Between eighteen months and two years, most kids can begin to understand some rudimentary rules. Keep them simple, please—no complex commands. Saying, “You can’t play with that because Mommy needs it for work tomorrow” will elicit a blank stare. “No going near the road”  is more their size. Of course, they will do it anyway because they’re new at this whole rule thing—and because they finally have some control over their arms and legs, and there is neat stuff to play with. When Mommy or Daddy stops them, it’s terrible! The universe just ended! Tantrum Time!

Two year olds live at the center of their own universe; everything and everyone exists just for them. This can be seriously confusing for them when things don’t go their way. They really cannot understand why they can’t have and do what they want, because the world is theirs. They also have no idea how to regulate their emotions. We they are angry, they are consumed by that anger. Sadness is world destroying. Disciplining a two year old is aimed at teaching them to not hurt other people and to regulate their emotions. This is where the No biting and No kicking come in, along with the You can sit in your room alone until you can stop screaming.

Three and four year olds are still learning to modulate their emotions, but are also developing self-sufficiency… and opinions. Discipline at this age is mostly about consistency and endless repetition. They do know they can’t take that juice away from the table, but they think that maybe this time they will get away with it. At this age we want to reinforce the fact that bad behavior never gets you what you want. That juice is gone.

Enter the kindergartener. Have you ever noticed that most kindergarten teachers are young? They burn out quick. This is the age when kids start to learn about responsibility, and to feel guilt when they mess up. We make sure they understand the rules, remind them when they might bump into one, and enforce discipline immediately when they break one. At this age rewards work remarkably well, because kids are learning to feel pride when they do well.

The grade school years are your reward for making it through. Kids are very logical, not extremely emotional, and are focused more on learning and developing their skills and talents. They also at this age learn to deal with their failures, to discipline themselves  within their own internal framework of right and wrong. Where a kindergartener might hit another child and then feel bad, we want our third grader to feel like hitting another child but stop themselves.

Drum roll please… Adolescence. During these years teens break down and replace large portions of of their brains – the part would have given them a view of the future and the long term consequences of their actions, had it been there. They can be very impulsive and sometimes indulge in very risky behavior. Parenting in adolescence mainly consists of making sure they get enough sleep (a sleep deprived teen brain is a scary thing), keeping them alive, and protecting them from mistakes that will follow them forever. The most effective way to do this is to stay involved in their lives (even when they don’t want you to), know where they are and what they are doing, and keep communication open.  Discipline at this age is largely making sure they take responsibility for their actions because after adolescence you won’t be there to rescue them. Don’t save them from the small stuff (flunking grades) but make sure to protect them from the biggies (drugs, pregnancy, death).

The goal of discipline at any age is not to punish the child, but rather to  raise an inspired, responsible, self-reliant adult. Keep the long term in mind when you seem to be disciplining the exact same infraction over and over: you’re not aiming for a well behaved 2 year old or a teen who never screws up. You’re aiming for an amazing adult.

Want more specifics on how to make which rules? Check out 8 Surefire Strategies to Make Rules Work and 5 Reasons Why Kids Need Rules, and How Need Decides What Rules Should Be.