The Dangers of Texting: What are we teaching iKids about driving?

Lately I have noticed a new trend, stoplight texting. It happens at almost every major intersection with a signal, especially when there are more than three cars waiting for the light to turn green.   You have probably experienced it yourself. When the light turns green, at least one car just sits and doesn’t move as the cars in front of it goes through the intersection. Then the person will look up from their phone (sometimes after I gently honk) and speeds through the intersection before the light turns red. Invariably, because of their bad smartphone habit, the light changes before I can go through the intersection and I am stuck at the red light.

You may think this is just a minor inconvenience, but a new study conducted by AAA about teenagers and distracted driving shows that our texting and driving habits are having disastrous results. What makes this study so compelling is that it is based on 1,700 videos that were recorded as teenagers were driving. They discovered distraction was a factor in 58 percent of all crashes, including 89 percent of road-departure crasheds and 76 percent of read-end crashes. Before this study, it was thought distraction was responsible for only 14 percent of all teen driver crashes.

How big is this problem? In 2014, about 963,000 drivers age 16-19 were involved in automobile accidents, with 383,000 injuries and 2,865 deaths. With just over 20 million teens age 16-19, this means almost 5% of this age group was in an accident. Most significant almost 60% of these were preventable. The two biggest distractions they discovered was talking to someone else in the car (15%) and cell phone use (12%).

An earlier study by the AAA found that adults were far more likely to be using their cellphones while driving. While only 20 percent of teens reported using a cell phone while driving in the last month, forty-three percent of adults ages 25 – 39 reported doing so.

This study points to a much larger problem with our use of our techgear and how it is affecting the way we think and interact with the larger world. Matt Richtel, in A Deadly Wandering, A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention, tells the story of Reggie Shaw, a college student in Utah, who fatally struck two rocket scientists as he was texting and driving. One of the first cases that was actually prosecuted, Richtel uses this example to explore the wider issue of attention and how our digital life affects our brains and the way we make decisions.

In the book he interacts with leading neuroscientists to discover how our use of smartphones and tablets is affecting the way we think. In this example he shows how powerful our devices are. “There are few impulses as basic and inescapable as the one that urges you to turn around if someone taps on your shoulder. You must discover if the person is an opportunity or a threat. When your phone rings, it is a proverbial tap on the shoulder. You want to find out who it is. You need to. Your bottom-up survival system demands it.” (p. 215)

But our devices don’t just ring when someone calls us. They are designed to send pings and dings to us whenever we receive a text, a message, or an alert from our favorite news source. As a result we live in a constant state of distraction.

When coupled with driving, this creates a dangerous mix. Reggie’s story illuminates the problem with texting and driving. Most people just don’t send one text. In fact, texting, especially if it is done in the midst of a heated argument or intense debate is an ongoing discussion. Before he crossed into the wrong lane and crashed into the oncoming car, Reggie had been involved in a series of texts with his girlfriend.

Dr. David Strayer, a researcher in the area of attention and performance, gave testimony at Reggie’s trial. What he said is worth repeating. In his research he used an important term, “inattention blindness.” He said, “Depending on the complexity of the driving task, it may take fifteen seconds or more after you’ve push ‘send’ before you’re fully back in an unimpaired state.” (p. 274)

Reggie, who had been having problems remembering what had led to the crash came to a revealing thought after hearing Dr. Strayer’s testimony. “What if I was so preoccupied that I actually didn’t know what was going on?” (p. 275)

And that is the problem. As much as we would like to think we can handle multiple inputs at the same time, our brains are not designed for the demands of the digital age. We can only focus on one thing at a time.  As the iKids Generation, whose leading edge is 15-years-old gets ready to drive, now is the time to teach them the importance of driving distraction free before it is too late.

So what should we do?

  1. The leading edge of the iKids (born since 2000) is fifteen-years-old and will be hitting the road next year.   This generation who sees digital technology as their birthright will need specific guidance from parents, teachers, and youth leaders on how to drive without being hooked up to their techgear. They will need to be taught how to focus on the road and to pay attention to what is happening around them while they drive.
  2. We should be asking car manufactures what business they are in — making cars or digital platforms? Putting digital interfaces with access to social media sites, internet service, and mapping apps in dashboards next to the driver is a recipe for disaster, especially for young drivers. It invites and encourages distracted driving, putting every person on the road at a greater risk of being in an accident.
  3. Parents need to ask what they are teaching their children about driving. If they are constantly talking and texting (even at stop lights) while they are behind the wheel, they are teaching their children that driving a car is just an afterthought, not a skill that demands our full attention.  They must realize they are the primary teachers of driving and their children will follow their examples, examples that could lead to deadly consequences when their children start driving.

Craig Kennet Miller is the author of iKids: Parenting in the Digital Age
iKidsgen.com

iKids on Flipboard’s New Website

Today Flipboard has launched a new website that allows you to collect and keep track of your favorite topics on the web. Developed first for the iPad and later for smartphones, Flipboard is a great app for keeping track of the ideas that are most important for to you and your work.

I have used it to create some of my own magazines where I have been collecting articles around topics that are of importance to me. If you haven’t tried it, I invite you to take a look.   If you are new to Flipboard, when you find a magazine you like, click on “follow” and it will be added to your collection of sites.  You also can add Flipboard to your tablet and/or smartphone.

Here are three Flipboard Magazines I have developed.  I invite you to try these out and create your own collection of ideas that matter to you.

iKids
http://flip.it/vvxXM
Learn about the digital life of children and teens, those born from 2000 – 2017
With over 1,500 articles, you will find articles on gaming, digital technology, brain development, health, and spirituality.

Innovative Leadership Project
http://flip.it/TFjno
Creating innovative leaders at the heart of local churches – churchleaderUMC.com
With a focus on work and productivity, this collection of articles delves into issues of work/balance, creating healthy habits, organization, running meetings, and tips for being a creative leader.

Millennials Trending
http://flip.it/Wqrxi
Urban Life and the Spirituality of Young Adults
My newest collection looks at the newest research on young adulthood, especially as it relates to Second Generation Americans, social media, education, and financial issues related to this generation.

Give the Gift of Privacy to your iKids this Year

Christmas day is now the biggest day for downloads of gaming apps and signing up for social media sites. Just like previous years, as soon as the iKids Generation unwrap their smartphones and tablets they will be ready to go online and load up their devices with game apps and social media sites. If they are first-time users of social media sites like Facebook or Instagram, they will be eager to post their first selfies and search madly for friends who can “Like” them.

As fun as this all is, it would be well for parents and grandparents to put on the brakes long enough to give some old-fashioned advice and to prepare them as they create their online identities. Just like you wouldn’t let a 16-year-old drive a car without getting a learner’s permit, you shouldn’t let your iKids jump on the World Wide Web without the basic rules of the road.

The current Sony hacking scandal in which hackers revealed the private emails of corporate executives and released the social security numbers of thousands of employees is an important reminder that everything we post in the digital world is free game.

A newly released report from Pew on “The Future of Privacy” points to the eroding notion of privacy. By 2025, as companies and nations hone their data mining skills by tapping the personal data of online users, individuals will be hard pressed to find privacy. The study says:

“We have seen the emergence of publicly as the default modality, with privacy declining. In order to ‘exist’ online, you have to publish things to be share, and that has to be done in open, public spaces.”

What does this mean for the iKids, those born since 2000? As they head into their teenage years and as they make their first forays into digital life their ideas, emotions, and opinions will be feasted upon by major corporations like Disney, Amazon, Netflix, Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, and Google to discover the newest emerging trends and to develop sophisticated marketing campaigns to sell their products.

Later in life, as they apply for college and for jobs, their online identity will be just as important as grade point averages, test scores, or essays. When they look for a life partner, a digital identity will reveal to a potential loved one their interests and desires.

Unlike previous generations, the iKids live in a digitalized world where every thought, image, and personal stuff that is put online is public domain. They don’t have the luxury of second chances. If they make a mistake, the world as they know it will know. So before you set them free, give them the gift of some important rules to keep them safe and to lower the risk of totally embarrassing themselves before family and friends.

So what are the basics you should cover?

  1. Assume everything you put online is public
    If you make a bad remark about a friend, assume he or she will see it
    If you post a funny picture, assume it will be shared with everyone
  2. Ask permission before downloading a new game or social media site
  3. Do not share personal information like:
    Name
    Phone number
    School name
    Address of your house
  4. When signing up on social media sites use privacy settings
    Say no to giving out your location
    Say no to linking to other social media sites

For more guidelines go to:
Common Sense Media

Craig Kennet Miller is the author of iKids: Parenting in the Digital Age