“Disturbing truth: Risks can’t always be lowered-and trying creates risks of its own.”*
There is a very disturbing truth that each parent must face up to or run the risk of making potentially harmful choices for their children. That truth being: We cannot always protect our children. This is a horrible and terrifying thought and I get why you may not want to hear what I have to say. But, without facing up to one of the harshest realities we as parents will ever face, we risk deluding ourselves and our children. And more to the point, we risk making choices that not only do not work, but that may cause harm.
So, here we go. Oftentimes, parents cite safety as the number one reason to give their children a cell phone. This is especially the case with teens and driving. Driving is an inherently risky proposition, more so for new drivers.The research says that the number one way our teens die an accidental death is in a car crash. And that the number one cause of these accidental deaths is distracted driving. Guess what the number one distraction is? Cell phones. Really, really take that in. This is where, in our attempt to believe we can minimize or eradicate risk, we have created not only more risks, but potentially the very scenario we are trying desperately to avoid.
If you feel that for safety reasons a cell phone is something you would like your child to have, here are a couple of things to consider. One, remember that this is a choice, a preference, something you would “like”, but not an absolute requirement, and more to the point, never a guarantee of safety. This is a luxury and as such it should be kept in its place. Two, if it truly is about safety, why then do our children need smart phones? Why encourage the distraction? Why purchase something with all the bells and whistles which in reality encourages them to be distracted while driving? How does this help insure your child’s safety? It does not. If you feel they need something, make it utilitarian.** They will hate it, but you will have established yourself in the position of the one who understands the risks better than they and as the one who is willing to act on behalf of that knowing.
*From Less Medicine, More Health by Dr. H. Gilbert Welch. Interestingly he is looking at what drives too much medical care. I find many parallels between the over emphasis on technology in healthcare and its rampant presence in our children’s lives.
**I am told that a cell phone without a plan is still able to dial 911. I have also seen phones, usually marketed towards seniors (they will really love you for this one!!) that are only phones. That’s it. No Internet. No texting.