Teen drivers’ obsession with social media may cause injury and death

Today’s teenagers have numerous responsibilities and social activities competing for their attention and time. For many teens, a smartphone wins out almost every time. In fact, a recent survey of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 reveals that 24 percent admit to being on their smartphones almost constantly, while 56 percent admit to using their phones “several times a day.”

There’s no doubt that today’s teenagers are more connected than ever and that most rely upon cellphones to communicate with friends and family, text and post photos. What many teens don’t appear to understand, however, is that there are times when it’s ok and even necessary to put their cellphones down.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more U.S. teens die in motor vehicle accidents than from any other cause. This was true even before cellphones were mainstream. Today, teens are increasingly using their smartphones while behind the wheel and increasingly endangering not only their own lives, but also those of other drivers and passengers.

Teen drivers are often the targets of public service campaigns warning of the dangers of drunk and distracted driving. Despite being aware of the dangers of using a smartphone while driving, the results of a recent study show thatroughly 50 percent of teens text while driving. Of those teen drivers who use a smartphone, 38 percent say they use Snapchat, 20 percent Instagram, 17 percent Twitter and 12 percent use Facebook and YouTube.

These numbers have many parents and adults wondering why teen drivers willingly engage in such dangerous and distracting behaviors. Researchers note a phenomenon known as fear of missing out or FOMO as being a major contributing factor that, much like an addiction compels teens to respond to texts, calls and posts even though they know it’s dangerous.

Parents of teen drivers would be wise to talk to a son or daughter about smartphone use while driving. Teens in general often fail to grasp the potential consequences of their actions and having frank discussions may make a teen think twice before reaching for his or her phone while driving.

Source: Time, “FOMO Is Making Teens Terrible Drivers,” Katy Steinmetz, Aug. 4, 2015

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