Last week, Aaron Deveau, 18, was found guilty of motor vehicle homicide by texting and became the first in the state to be sent to prison for driving while texting.
According to reports, after being distracted by his phone, Deveau swerved his car into oncoming traffic. The resulting accident killed a 55-year-old father of three.
In a single moment, many lives were destroyed. But what makes this story even more tragic is that it was so easily avoidable. In the following blog, Boston Children’s Hospital’s media expert, Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of Boston Children’s Center on Media and Child Health, shares practical tips for parents on how to keep their teens from texting while behind the wheel.
Q: I’ve been begging my teen son not to text while driving, but I know he does it anyway. What can I do to get him to stop?
–Texting and Driving in Beverly, MA
A: Dear Texting and Driving,
You’re right to be concerned–according to a new study from the CDC, one third of U.S. teens report texting while driving. The issue has come front and center this past week, when an 18 year old became the first person in Massachusetts to be convicted of causing a fatal car crash while texting.
But stories like this and state prohibitions on texting and driving may not get the reaction you’re looking for from your son. Research shows that knowing it’s dangerous doesn’t necessarily deter some young adults from texting while driving. And because his brain won’t be able to fully process long-term consequences until he’s in his 20s, the idea that an accident like this could happen to him may just not feel real.
To get the message across, try approaching the issue in a way:
- Make sure to touch on consequences that he can grasp. Although it’s important to talk about the very real dangers of texting while driving, it might help to also discuss those that are closer to what he has experienced–like not being allowed to drive. The young man who was convicted this week had his license revoked by a judge for 15 years.
- Work with him to establish clear rules for cell phone use. He’ll want to have his cell phone with him when he’s in the car, but it doesn’t have to be a distraction. Ask him what would help him keep his eyes on the road–turning the phone off completely? Leaving it in the glove compartment or the trunk? If he owns the solution, he is more likely to feel ownership of it and to abide by it.
- Together, create real consequences for not abiding by the rules. Agree ahead of time on what happens if he does text while driving. Maybe for a period of time he loses the privilege of driving the car–or of having a phone.
- Praise what he does well, and follow through on the consequences when he slips up. Both will reinforce how important this issue is.
- Model the behavior you’d like to see–and put your phone away while you’re driving, too. He will listen far more closely to what you do than to what you say.
Now, I’m the mom and a pediatrician to boot, so I do see that there’s some sense in contacting me. But I’m in Boston, nowhere near their school, and there is actually a clear protocol for these situations, as I text them when I can get free: Go to the nurse. I’m not even the one who would go get them—my husband or mother-in-law would. But Mark and Jude don’t do text messaging (they haven’t fully figured it out yet), so the kids text me. …
Media expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, answers your questions about media use.
Last week he answered your questions about parenting with television. Here’s this week’s question:
–Curious about Kids in Lamar, CO
A: Dear Curious,
I recently came across an interview with three girls who are labeled “extreme texters.” It was fascinating to listen to them talk about how and how often they use technology, but what was most interesting to me was this comment:
Reporter: Would you say that you’re a little bit addicted to your cell phones?
Teen: I don’t think it’s being addicted to my cell phone, it’s the need to be talking to my friends, and the cell phone is just the way I get to that. …
We’re all familiar with the myriad benefits of the Internet, a tool which has undeniably changed the way we communicate, learn and use entertainment. But how much of a good thing is too much? For a small fraction of kids, the Internet’s draw may prove too enticing, as Internet addiction (loosely defined as excessive use of the Internet that negatively impacts academic, social and family life) appears to be on the rise in much of the industrialized world.
We spoke to a neurologist specializing in the teen brain, media expert Michael Rich and a psychologist for this article about Internet addiction and its possible effects. Read on to find out what you need to know about your child’s Internet use–and how you can help them manage their screen time effectively.
That’s important to do, as a national survey recently found that the amount of time young people spend with entertainment media has risen dramatically: Today, 8 to 18 year olds spend an average of almost eight hours a day using digital media. And because they are often “media-multitasking” (like instant messaging on the computer while watching TV and texting friends on their cellphones) they actually manage to cram a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those eight hours.
So, is it bad for kids and adults alike to spend so much time using digital media? The answer isn’t straightforward, as the article makes clear, and much more research needs to be done. A Frontline documentary also probes the question.