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Summary:

With a reported 11 teens killed while texting and driving per day, parents are turning towards apps to limit their kids phone use behind the wheel. SecruaFone offers one for iPhone and Android handsets that diables some features when in motion, but it doesn’t stop there.

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With 11 teens killed while texting and driving per day, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that parents are turning towards apps to limit their kids’ phone use behind the wheel. The sad statistic comes from Chris Holbert, CEO of SecuraFone, which offers an app for iPhone and Android handsets that diables some phone features when moving 5 mph or more. SecuraFone doesn’t stop there though: It also allows parents to monitor where their kids are driving and how fast they’re going.

SecuraFone was one of several safety apps featured on NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams earlier this week:


Note that some features are free while premium functions cost $8.99 per month; the SecuraFone site isn’t clear which are free and which are premium.

I’ve seen apps similar to SecuraFone, but this one goes a few steps further than most and here’s where the teens will really cringe.

If teens need to text for an emergency or some other reason, they have to use the app to send a request to their parents; a 15-minute window of communications can be granted. Aside from disabling texts, the software can use a handset’s GPS to track location, complete with a 90 day history. Parents can also set up a geo-fence boundary and receive an alert when their kids pass beyond the borders. And parental alerts are also available if kids drive faster than a certain speed. Perhaps these additional functions are a bit much for most, but at its core, SecuraFone offers some peace of mind for parents.

One of my kids is set to hit the driving age in 2013, so I’ll be giving these types of apps some serious thoughts between now and then. I’m curious: Are any of our readers already using one of these, and if so, what do the kids think?

  1. Taylor B. O'Neal Wednesday, May 16, 2012

    So, it can’t differentiate between a driver and a passenger… that’s a big problem.

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    1. Brandi Palmer Saturday, May 19, 2012

      I don’t think so. All to often, I see young people with their noses stuck to their phone while they neglect the people around them. Heaven forbid that they have to actually engage with the person next to them.

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  2. Kevin, my oldest kid will also start driving in 2013 and I will definitely be looking into apps like this. I’m already an avid user of Apple’s Find My Friends app. ;)

    Even as a passenger now, I think this is a good idea. She’s not riding in a car that much, but when she is, it might be better for her to be engaged with the driver and other passengers, rather than have her nose in her phone.

    Actually I might set this up for myself, there’s a chance that I might occasionally text while driving!

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  3. I think any parent that does that to his children instead of educating them properly, deserves death.

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  4. does no one take the transit system? I don’t think this will know the difference either.

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  5. No way the number is 11 fatalities per day. Where do these numbers come from? There are something like 60% fewer teen traffic fatalities today than there were in 1975. US teens are safer than they *ever* have been – in every possible way. Please don’t play these stupid tricks on your kids.

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    1. Brandi Palmer Saturday, May 19, 2012

      First off, that’s nationwide. In order to AVERAGE 11 fatalities per day, there only has to be 4,015 the entire year. According to this article [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/16/AR2009111602174.html], there were 5,870 fatalities and 515,000 injuries due to distracted driving. I think adults should use this app too. I’m not even joking.

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  6. “With 11 teens killed while texting and driving per day”– BULLSH*T
    I’ll believe it when I see a citation.

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  7. Any parent who feels the need to control, rather than educate, children should not have had kids in the first place.

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    1. Brandi Palmer Saturday, May 19, 2012

      Clearly, you don’t have kids. You’re probably a kid yourself. First off, having a phone when your parents are paying for it is a privilege, not a right. Secondly, kids do what they what when their parents aren’t looking just to prove that they can. I used to work for a 24hr retailer, and you wouldn’t believe the immature and outright STUPID things kids would do in order to prove that they are cool and/or grown when their parents aren’t around. I think this would be a good app for adults to use too. I’ve been in a few moving vehicles when the driver, whom wasn’t a teenager, would look at their screen every time it beeps. I have a strict no texting while driving rule with any of my vehicles. I’ve advised my kids that if they are even seen texting and driving, and it gets back to me, car privilege will be revoked and not given back (yeah, driving Mommy and Daddy’s car is not a right either). Believe it or not, I lead by example. If my phone goes off while I’m driving, I’ll ask my passenger to check it for me. I NEVER look at my phone while I am driving. Also, while I’m engaged in conversation with a friend, I usually won’t answer the phone unless it’s one of my kids or my fiancé or my parents. And if my phone gives me the beep that indicates text, I don’t even look at it. It can wait. When you grow up and have kids of your own, you’ll understand. Until then, don’t judge people for protecting their kids. It’s called parenting, which is GOOD parents do.

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  8. I understand that some people may not have had experiences in their lives that would cause them to think steps such as these need to be taken to protect our children, but I think those people also need to consider that there are situations that they aren’t aware of that may deserve such cautions. In my own experience, as an adult, I have ridden in vehicles with drivers that I didn’t think used safe driving practices and some who even went way over the speed limit. In fact, I was in a horrible car accident as a passenger in a vehicle where the driver was just driving too fast for some curves in a road that he wasn’t familiar with. This is all as an ADULT. Teenagers have very little experience and most of them feel invincible, when combined often create a very unsafe environment. If I were to use such a tool to keep track of my teenager, I wouldn’t do it secretly. I would sit down and talk with him, yet again, about safe driving, possible consequences of unsafe driving, and would explain that we are going to use the app while he gains more driving experience. I would also like to ask everyone who’s bashing the use of these kinds of tools whether they, themselves, have ever accidentally gone over the speed limit and didn’t realize it right away or who have gone over the yellow line because they are paying attention to adjusting their heater or radio. Again, now think about a teenager behind the wheel. I, as a parent, would NOT be using such a tool to replace important conversations with my teenager about safe driving, but, instead, would use it to monitor possible unsafe driving that may be done accidentally, or purposefully, when I’m not there to keep him safe, myself. I can tell you that I talk to my teenage driver almost daily about safe driving and consequences of not driving safely, yet he’s admitted to me that he’s gone much faster than he should have at times. My older son has said the same thing about when he was a teenager and he’s now 24 years old. We, as parents, can talk until we are blue in the face, but our teens are going to do what they are going to do, often as a result of peer pressure. They go through driver’s training, supervised driving with parents, and lots of talk and information through both of these experiences, but, still, they sometimes choose to drive unsafely anyway. I can tell you that I think if my son knew there was something in the vehicle that I could use to monitor his driving and that may possibly cause me to take his driving privileges away, he would drive very safely. Why? Because he loves the freedom that being able to drive gives him. In short, I think any tool that we can use as parents to keep our kids safe is a great one. It is our responsibility to help keep them safe until they are mature enough to make safe decisions on their own or they are an adult where we can no longer do so. I, for one, love my kids and will do anything I can to help keep them safe. If that means using an app to keep track of speed and other unsafe driving habits, then so be it.

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  9. I think that the driving age is big part of growing up and we should start to give up the control, little by little – not to try to find extended ways of control.

    I definitely know that I would have hated these apps when I started driving. And I’m glad I didn’t have these apps when my kids started. I just had to trust them and it worked out both ways.

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