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Social Media and Distracted Driving Among Teens Part 2

Welcome back to our discussion of how social media functions as a major distraction for teenage drivers. In the first part, we explained how Snapchat is a unique threat to young drivers as it simultaneously distracts attention, removes hands from the steering wheel and takes eyes off of the road. Unfortunately, Snapchat’s perception as a quick and easy photo sharing app leads many teens to “snap” while driving – with deadly consequences.

How is Instagram a Driving Distraction?

When it comes to photo sharing, Instagram is used much more widely than Snapchat. But the two apps have always served two different purposes, so it’s normal for teens to have both. For a while, Snapchat has been the “casual” photographing app due to its simple process, fun and silly filters and the temporary nature of its pictures. Therefore, more often than not Snapchat has been more popular to use on the road than Instagram and other social networks. This all began to change after an update in August of 2016.

Instagram Copies Snapchat

Instagram’s update in August 2016 capitalized on a lot of what Snapchat was known for. Now, in addition to posting photos to add to your profile, you can send temporary pictures either privately or to a story – exactly like Snapchat. Since Instagram has always been more popular than Snapchat, it is estimated that the update pulled over 15% of Snapchat users just six months after the update. Today in 2018, Instagram has more than twice the daily users of its Story feature than Snapchat.

Instagram taking advantage of Snapchat’s features doesn’t seem to mean much at first when it comes to distracted driving. All it means is that Instagram now has the same simple, inconsequential way of posting pictures as Snapchat does. So why bother mentioning it? While Instagram does not have a Speed filter, this update adds a new danger.

According to Statista, Instagram has one billion active users as opposed to Snapchat’s 255 million. While both apps have only gained more and more popularity as time passes, Instagram is now introducing Story sharing to a staggering number of users who have never tried Snapchat. Now the temptation to post your favorite song on the radio on your way to work has opened up to many more young people.

Facebook & Livestreaming

Facebook is normally the first thing that comes to mind when people think of social media. Although it is losing popularity among teens, Facebook has also introduced a feature that adds a new layer to distracted driving: Facebook Live. With Facebook Live, all you need is a Facebook account to be able to live stream your activities. With over two billion active users, that’s a lot of people.

As the owners of Instagram, it didn’t take long for Facebook to extend that feature to Instagram users. While this feature opens up a lot of exciting possibilities for what many users can do with these apps, it is yet another easy excuse for a teen to use their smartphone while behind the wheel. Once again, we see the sad consequences of this on the road. In 2016, a 20-year-old man livestreamed his driving maneuvers reaching speeds up to 115 mph and eventually crashing into a dump truck. An even more tragic incident happened where an 18 year old was live streaming on Instagram when she got in a car crash, causing her 14-year-old sister to be killed.

The Takeaway

Social media is not going anywhere. We cannot blame these companies for creating these new features especially since the purpose of these features are not intended to be used while driving. However, it is important for parents to be aware of these features so they know how to monitor their own children from making poor choices on the road.

If you are a parent, it is important to discuss how to be safe using social media even before teens have begun driving. Here are some tips that parents can use to ensure their children are being safe on the road.

  • Open communication – Openly discuss the dangers of using a smartphone while driving. Explain to teens how using their phone while driving is just as dangerous as drinking and driving. Encourage them to speak up when they’re with a friend who is on their phone while driving. Remember, often times it’s the passenger who suffers from a driver’s poor choices. Communicating with your kids without questioning them will allow them to understand why it’s important.
  • Set rules – You may want to set rules as to how long your teen uses social media. In addition, be very clear to make it a rule that they never use their phone while driving. Explain to them what the consequences will be if they break this rule.
  • Set a good example – If you check your phone while driving, even just once, it gives your teen tacit approval to do so. Obviously, make sure you never do this even before your child begins to drive. They will probably remember. Even at a stoplight, set a good example by not looking at your phone and pull over if there is something absolutely necessary you need to take care of on your phone.
  • Don’t forbid social media – Once again, keeping honest and open communication is important to be able to monitor your kids phone use. If you simply forbid them from using social media, it could be a losing battle if your teen has a smartphone. They probably know how to use the phone better than you do and have many workarounds to use social media without you knowing.
  • Observe their phone use – This seems obvious but it really is essential. If you observe the time a teen is on their phone at home, you can determine if they will be tempted to use their phone on the road. How quickly do they look at their phone when it buzzes? How often do they post on social media? Are they able to put it down when you ask them to do something?
  • Drive with them – Even after your child has a driver’s license, if you and your teen are going somewhere, let them drive. See how they respond if their phone gets a notification. While they probably won’t open their phone in front of you, they might even make a quick glance down if their phone goes off. This might tell you whether or not they are tempted to use it while driving.
  • Join the same social network as your teen – This is a great way to see how your teen uses social media. Start as just an observer. Don’t comment on everything your teen posts so as not to annoy them. It’s very easy to block followers or even just prevent them from seeing your story so pay attention if you’re suddenly not seeing posts from your teen.

As social media companies gain more and more active users, more features are inevitable. Technology is not going away. Parents need to familiarize themselves with these social media platforms so as to be aware of the safety precautions for their children on the internet.

About Author: Steven Palermo is the Managing Partner of Palermo Law P.L.L.C., a top Long Island Personal Injury Law Firm. Their personable, results-oriented approach has wrought them serious success in helping individuals rebuild their lives.

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