Don’t Blame the Car for the Crash

In a car accident, typically one of the drivers is at fault, not the car itself. Similarly, when teens make mistakes on smartphones or social media, it's not the device's fault.

I know a little something about car accidents. I’ve been in 8. 7 of them before the time I turned 21. I am an incredibly paranoid driver as a result of this statistic. Driving seriously gives me anxiety now.

smartphone usage

Not once during any of my accidents was it caused by a malfunction of the car. Every single time it was an error on my part, or the other driver’s. This isn’t to say that accidents never happen because the car had an issue. Break failure, for example, can definitely cause some very serious car wrecks.

A lot of people get angry about technology and smartphones in particular. They tell everyone they shouldn’t let their children or teens use smartphones or have access to the wonderful tools that it can provide. They blame the technology for the mistakes people are making when using technology.

What we should be doing instead is educating, practicing, and insuring appropriate smartphone usage instead of blaming. To stick with the car analogy, we don’t hand over a driver’s license and a car to a teen that just turned 16 years old.

First, they have to study and take a test to prove they know a little something about driving. Then we get them behind the wheel, with supervision, and teach them how to properly use the car. Then they take another test to show they know how to properly use the car. Finally, once they have mastered all of those steps, we allow them to drive on their own. However, we still put an insurance policy in place to make sure if they do make a mistake, it can be corrected or damage can be repaired.

If we just handed a teen the keys to a car without these steps, there would be a LOT more accidents. Way more accidents than I had as a teen. They wouldn’t understand the rules of the road and would make a LOT of mistakes.

We see the same thing happening with technology and social media. Many parents will just hand a smartphone over to their child without taking any precautionary steps to teach them how to properly use and manage the device. No wonder they are using them improperly and making mistakes!

We should implement the same kind of process when handing over devices to our children. First, we can test their knowledge of proper internet use. Google has a great site to help kids understand the internet better called Be Internet Awesome.

You can also create your own kind of test with real-world scenarios that highlight your family’s rules. Include things like “someone sends you a direct message that you don’t know, the message itself doesn’t contain anything offensive or strange, what do you do?”

Once they pass the initial test, they can start using their smartphone with supervision. Just like a learner’s permit, your child’s smartphone use will be closely monitored by you. Through tools like Bark, Boomerang Parental Control, Google Family Link, Apple’s Screen Time settings, and a Gryphon router, you should be able to have a good understanding of what your child is doing on their device and block the things they shouldn’t be doing.

With your supervision, you can correct mistakes as you see them happen so they can continue to improve on their smartphone usage. The tests here will be given in the real world as you monitor their interactions. Each time you see positive interactions they can get points towards getting their “driver’s license”

As they get older, you can loosen the reigns gradually when they prove they can be trusted with different social media platforms. They are finally ready to “drive”! However, you should still get an insurance policy. In technology terms that would be similar to continue to monitor their social media interactions, but allowing them to have more access to different social apps. Just to ensure that they are still keeping the family rules.

Basically, we need to stop blaming technology, social media, and smartphones for the mistakes other people make on the devices. Trusting our kids with their smartphone usage doesn’t need to be a scary thing. If everyone treated handing devices over like handing over the keys to the car, we may just find a world where the majority of teens use their devices properly!

Personally, I would LOVE to see that world.

Don't Blame the Car for the Crash-Smartphone Usage

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About the author

Sarah Werle Kimmel

Sarah Werle Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 20 years of her career working as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on local NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX news affiliates, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website

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