There comes a time in every parent’s life when they have to face reality: one day, your little one is going to grow, mature, and learn to drive. It’s scary. Here are some tips to help keep their eyes off their phone and on the road.
When it comes down to it, keeping your kids safe from the small-screen distraction when behind the wheel is two parts communication and one part technology. The good news is that no matter what, you’re being proactive about the situation.
Start By Talking to Them
With kids, talking goes a long way! They may not always act like it, but they’re listening. They remember the things you say, and as much as they don’t want to admit it, they know you’re right.
Sometimes, however, talking to them in a way that doesn’t seem overbearing or patronizing is difficult, especially when it’s about something important. And there are few things as important as keeping them safe behind the wheel. When I was younger, my dad always told me “Children bury their parents, not the other way around.” I still think about that a lot, and now that I’m a parent myself I absolutely know what he meant. (Proof that kids do listen and remember.)
So just talk to them. Have a conversation. Tell them how you feel, let them know that while it seems like just “quickly checking a text” doesn’t seem like a big deal, it only takes a split second for an accident to happen. A car is like a loaded gun—and demands as much respect as one, too.
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Lead By Example
I know, you have years of experience driving, so you know what to do. I’m with you there, but it’s hard to tell your kids one thing when they see you doing the exact opposite!
If you really want your children to take to heart the things you say, leading by example is the absolute best thing you can do. Don’t mess with your phone while you drive. Don’t reply to texts. Don’t even read them. It can wait.
If they see you actively ignoring incoming texts or other notifications, that speaks louder than anything you can say to them—telling them not to do something that you do even occasionally tells them it’s not that serious. That it’s a bad idea in theory, but is okay in practice as long you “try to be careful.”
Think about it: if they see you doing it and think it’s okay, could you ever forgive yourself if something terrible were to happen?
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Make Putting the Phone Away in the Car Mandatory
The best way to avoid a distraction is to completely remove it from your view—you know: out of sight, out of mind.
So make that a rule in the car. Put the phone away, somewhere it can’t be seen (or preferably even heard): in the console, in the glove box, in the trunk—just somewhere out of sight.
Not only will this make it harder for a casual grab-and-glance, but it will help keep curious eyes on the road if they can’t hear the *ding* with every text message.
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Put Tech to Work for You
The good news is that you don’t have to rely on your little angels to be completely honest and obey your every wish once they’re out and about—you can use their phone to your advantage.
For iPhone Users: Turn on Do Not Disturb Automatically
If your child has an iPhone, you can set Do Not Disturb to automatically turn on in a moving vehicle. This prevent them from (easily) using it, as well as blocks all notifications to avoid distraction. It’s cool.
To turn it on, head into Settings, and then tap the “Do Not Disturb” option.
Scroll to the bottom of the Do Not Disturb page, and then head into the “Do Not Disturb While Driving” menu. There are three options here: Automatically, When Connected to Car Bluetooth, or Manually. Pick whichever one best fits your situation.
From that point forward, DND is activated automatically based on those settings. No notifications, no distractions. A safer drive.
Of course, since it’s easy to enable, it’s also easy to disable—so if you’re serious about making sure they keep this enabled, you’re going to want to use iPhone’s built in Parental Controls, called Restrictions, to prevent them from turning it off.
For Android or iOS: Use an App
Regardless of which phone platform you and your kids use, there are safe driving apps available. Here are a few of the best out there for you to check out.
- LifeSaver: This app is packed full of features. It blocks texts and calls while driving, can alert parents when a child arrives at their location safely, tracks mileage, and a lot more. It’s available for both iOS and Android, and offers a slew of parental options.
- TrueMotion Family: TrueMotion Family is more of a tracking app that lets parents see where their child is, how they got there, and if they’re driving responsibly. So while it doesn’t outright block phone use like LifeSaver does, it will let you know if your kiddo is doing things he/she shouldn’t do while behind the wheel. There’s also a neat ranking system that shows how each driver in the family compares to each other. Now you can finally quantify who the better driver is! (Note: it’s always dad.) TrueMotion is available for iOS and Android.
- AT&T DriveMode: This app is a simple one, but it gets a lot of things right. It automatically turns on when it detects movement of 15MPH or more, blocking all notifications. It should then automatically disable itself a few minutes after the vehicle stops moving. Despite being an AT&T app, it’s available for all users regardless of carrier. It’s available for iOS and Android.
Of course, those aren’t the only options around, just a few suggestions to get you started. There are more robust options, like Cellcontrol, which uses additional hardware to remotely control smartphone usage. There are also apps like Drivemode (not to be confused with AT&T DriveMode, a different app) that make it easier to use a phone while driving by providing a bigger “no look” interface. We’re not really sure if that’s the type of behavior that should be encouraged, but hey—if it’s something you’re looking for, it’s out there.
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