Should You Buy Apps that Monitor Your Kids' Driving? - Sammy Makes Six

Should You Buy Apps that Monitor Your Kids' Driving?

Automobile crashes are one of the leading causes of teen death, and a major concern for parents.  Teenagers are more likely to drink and drive than other demographics, and their lack of experience on the road means they're less skilled at evasive driving.  With so many accidents involving teenagers each year, parents will go to great lengths to assure their kid's safety; now, a recent trend in mobile apps enables parents unprecedented access to their children's driving habits. Because they reduce the likelihood of an accident, the apps can also help parents save money when they do an auto insurance comparison at renewal. How useful are safe driving apps, and are they really such a good idea?

What Types of Apps Are Available?
Safe driving apps take several different forms.  Some apps, Text Arrest for Droid and ZoomSafer for Blackberry, disable text messaging while a vehicle is on the road.  Other apps actually allow parents to view their children's driving habits from a distance, like the iPhone's Safe Driver, which alerts parents when a teen exceeds the speed limit and actually pinpoints where the infraction occurred. Other apps take a more indirect approach to driver's education, such as the iPhone's Dangers of Distracted Driving app; this app is more game-like and shows various scenarios of what could happen to inattentive drivers.

Apps that reduce cell phone use while the vehicle is in motion make sense.  Distracted driving is a common problem among teens, young adults, and even some older drivers.  Other apps that have a more invasive role in watching a child's behavior stir up quite a bit more controversy.

·         You can view your child's driving from a distance, so you can get a more accurate picture than when you're in the car
·         You can confirm whether your child is being truthful with you regarding various driving practices
·         The apps can act as a deterrent: If the teen knows it's installed, he'll be less likely to do something for fear of being caught
·         The apps can open communication between parents and teens
·         The app can be used to prove your child is a safe driver, so he or she can qualify for reduced insurance premiums

·         Teens could view these apps as a breach of trust, closing off channels of communication with parents
·         Technology can't provide a full picture of what's happening behind the wheel
·         Parents may be tempted to use the app as a stand-in for necessary discussions
·         Teens could always side-step the apps by turning off their phone or driving without it.

The Bottom Line
Technology can be a helpful assistant, but nothing can replace good parenting.  Teenagers need to feel comfortable communicating with their parents, and if they feel that their parents don't trust them, they are less likely to approach them with other concerns.  Parents, too, need to feel that they can trust their children.  Safe driving apps may be one way to start a communication about driving, but ultimately open communication will have a more lasting impact.

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