young woman driving on highway while reading / writing text on smart phone.Parenting teens changed with the advent of the cell phone. I can think of multiple dilemmas from my adolescence that a cell phone would have helped my parents and I enormously: when I was late, when I was lost, when I needed help. Cell phones and smartphones have become integral parts of most of our lives. I was recently in a place with no cell phone service, and realized how much I’ve come to rely on my iPhone and all its information at my fingertips (I had to read a paper map.)

Teens can text their parents instead of yelling from their bedroom, parents can remind their teen to do something after they’ve left the house, and parents can even track their teens via cell phone to make sure they are where they say they are (or at least, where their cell phone is.) Like all technology, cell phones, smartphones, tablets, etc. have their positive and  negative effects on society. However, a study recently came out showing that parents’ attempts to keep in touch with teens can be putting them in danger.

Over half of teens answer phone calls from their parents while they’re driving. Teens in the study stated that their parents got angry with them when they didn’t answer the phone, and so they answered it to keep their parents satisfied. By trying to keep in touch with their teen and ensure their safety and well-being, parents are unwittingly contributing a risky situation.

We’ve written multiple posts about texting and driving. It’s a terrible combination that causes injuries and deaths. Talking on the phone and driving, while safer than texting if using a hands-free set, is still a bad idea for anyone. For teens, who are still in their first years of driving and lack expertise, it’s even worse.

Talk to your teen and make it clear that if they are driving, it’s okay not to answer your or anyone’s call until the car is stopped. They should not be texting or talking on the phone while they drive, simply because staying safe and whole is the first priority.Set a good example by refraining from texting or talking on the phone while driving.

Here are some other times when you might want to consider telling your teen it’s okay not to take your call or text with you:

In school. School has enough distractions, and most schools require students to turn cell phones off. However, many teens still find ways to use their phones in class or in the hallways. Unless there’s an emergency, consider waiting to find out that test score or ask questions about afternoon plans; and encourage your teen to wait until they come home to share with you- and to turn their phone back on.

At work. Most of us work in jobs where unrelated texting or phone calls are frowned upon. It’s likely your teen does, too. If your teen is at a planned work shift- or even a babysitting job- encourage them to put their phone away and focus on what they’re doing.

When out with friends. This one might seem odd, but many people- teens included- hate it when they’re having a conversation with someone and that person whips out a cell phone. Encourage your teen to refrain from using a phone when they’re interacting with other people (unless it’s to look something up, get directions, etc.) Our brains simply can’t multitask as well as we’d like, and personal interactions suffer when we’re distracted.

Any other situations you can think of where parents might want to rethink texting or calling their teen?