Pokémon Go, Your Teen, and Distracted Driving – Don’t Panic!

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Pokemon Go Promo Screen Shot

Pokémon Go became an instant hit after it was released in the US last week. Over the weekend, it was impossible not to see players with their eyes on their phones wandering through parks and malls and along city streets. That’s all fine, but the one place no one should ever be playing is behind the wheel of a car.

There are fake stories about accidents making the rounds along with outright weird stories that are true. One woman found a dead body. A couple of thieves used the game to stage a robbery. It’s clearly time to panic, or is it?

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Let’s tackle that first one about the car accident that is complete fabricated. You shouldn’t play Pokémon Go and drive. You shouldn’t play any game and drive, nor should you text or update your Facebook status or do any of the many things that create distracted driving. Yet, people are really freaking out about this one as though this game is somehow pushing everyone over the edge.

It’s especially an issue for parents with young drivers. Teenagers are scary enough behind the wheel when they’re paying attention. Fill the car with kids and hand your teen driver a phone with a game to play and you’re looking for trouble, but this game isn’t the problem.

The problem is that every parent should have long ago had a conversation with their teen about distracted driving. I say this as a parent with a child who is just shy of being able to drive. I have been talking to her about distracted driving for years. While we played the game over the weekend I made a point of handing her my phone so she could play for both of us because it wasn’t safe for me to play and drive.

Pokemon Go Screen Shot

Not only was it ridiculous fun hearing her try to play both phones at once, something she managed because she is a teenager raised on games with the hand-eye coordination of a fighter pilot, but it proved a point. I drove, but I didn’t play because it wasn’t safe.

Will she listen or remember this when it comes time for her to drive in a few years? I have no idea, but I hope she follows my example and tosses her phone at one of her friends to play for her when the next game craze hits. We have to trust them at some point because they will be on their own one day if we’ve done our jobs as parents right.

What I won’t do is in any way nanny her over the issue or expect the game developer to somehow take care of it for me. I don’t want the game to block operation when a certain speed is detected. I don’t want a device in my car to block cell phone use to make sure my teen doesn’t use her phone while driving.

We all have to be responsible for our actions and this includes teenagers. We were all teenagers once. If a kid wants to break a rule, even one that keeps them safe, then they will find a way. No amount of nanny software will stop unsafe driving. Drivers of every age have to make the right decision and we have to let them make those decisions. They’ll make them without us in a few years either way.

Teach your kids to put down their phones when they drive. The more we make distracted driving unacceptable and the more we lead by example, the more we give our kids the tools they need to make good decisions when they drive. It will also help give them the confidence to stand up to their friends if they’re driving unsafely.

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Kids need to develop a sense of personal responsibility with guidance from their parents to make the right decisions. They won’t always make the right ones, but neither do adults. Nanny devices that assume they’ll make the wrong choice tell kids you don’t trust them. They aren’t the answer, and Pokémon Go is not the problem.