I have many fond memories from childhood of sitting on my dad’s lap, steering the car down the driveway. I’m sure his foot hovered over the brake the entire time, but for me, it was an amazing adventure, even if only to check the mailbox.
I do the same thing with my kids now. They get to take charge of the steering wheel down our cul-de-sac. While this may be a sweet memory, it’s also great training for driving! I can see if the curb is getting close and grab the wheel, or brake before we hit the mailbox. My kids get to experience an exciting, new responsibility while I still have a lot of control and can make adjustments before we get into trouble.
Even when my kids turn 16 and start to drive on their own, it will be easy to see when they’ve made mistakes. A scratch on the side of the car, a dent in the bumper, or a speeding ticket in the mail will alert me that more training is still needed. These accidents make for difficult conversations and consequences, but it also allows me to help my kids make adjustments so it doesn’t happen again.
This isn’t always true with technology. When the same 16-year-old collides with a guardrail we’ve put into place for technology, it can’t be easily seen. Mistakes happen behind closed doors. Accidental clicks don’t show up anywhere the next day. Inappropriate messages can be easily hidden.
This is why it’s so important to create very clear guardrails with our kids when it comes to technology. We don’t know when they might run into something, but we want them to know when they do and how they should respond. Let your kids know they will run into things on accident. Making rules about where devices can be used is a great guardrail you can monitor. Not allowing devices behind closed doors or after certain hours can help reduce the number of accidents that do happen.
The first time I got pulled over was while my dad was teaching me to drive a manual car. I was so bad at it that the officer thought I was drunk driving! Being pulled over for the first time is completely terrifying but having a parent in the car to talk to the officer for me and tell me what to do made the situation far less stressful. When your kids know they have you by their side and can come to you no matter the situation they run into online, it creates an ongoing conversation and a safe space for them. The truth is our kids need a place to come to when they do mess up, because they will mess up.
For more tips on how you can prepare your kids for tech use, view our Digital Driver’s Ed guide. You can also unpack our favorite screentime tips and tricks in our new Screen Sanity Group Study available this week!