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Your Smartphone is Your Vehicle, but are You a Responsible Driver?

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This article was written by mspy.com.

The power of the internet and proliferation of mobile devices have been changing the way we do things.  Young people have always been the frontrunners of the new, creating digital trends and embracing technologies to communicate, learn, create and now….to commute as well.  Cyber hitch-hiking is gaining momentum among teens while raising questions about its benefits and risks.

If in 1983 69% of 17 year olds had a driving license, this number dropped to 46% by 2010. Nowadays, young people are in no hurry to35235nnsdfs get a driver’s license or a car.  Not surprising considering the tough economy and the high cost of car ownership. In the absence of personal vehicles, what are teenagers doing to get from one place to another? It’s simple; they are sticking out their cyber thumbs to hitch a ride. The trend known as cyber hitch-hiking is gaining more momentum among digital age kids.  On social media, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, teenagers are hitching rides by using identifiable hashtags such as, “#ineedaride to point A. Anyone?”

Cyber hitch-hiking is considered fun, efficient, and most importantly – it doesn’t cost a penny. But this new trend also causes alarm for safety and security.  With two in four teens using their smartphones as the primary way to access the Internet, privacy continues to be a primary concern.

Since the online world is like a huge megapolis, the risk associated with cyber hitch-hiking is of stranger danger. While most teenagers are looking for rides within their social circles, not every connection made via social networks is safe.  Just as kids are taught that talking to strangers is a no- soliciting to social friends is also a teachable moment and an area where caution takes precedence.

Parents and their children should take heed by being proactive to discuss digital trends and other online behaviors. Having conversations about good practices and how to build online principles, helps both parents and teens mitigate cyber hitch-hiking and other internet/social media risks.  Here are points to consider:

  • Educate and get educated. Stay abreast about what’s going on in the social and online world.  Become familiar with new digital products, communities or trends that can cater or target teenagers. Continually reinforce the message about the importance of responsible smartphone usage. This includes teaching your kid(s) what information can be shared online and what should be avoided.  Be careful to explain how online profiles and personalities can be misleading or fake.
  • Do your homework. Have a familiarity about who your kids are engaging with online.  Check profiles of their friends and driving companions who they are riding with or meeting.  Once arriving to the destination, have them give you call confirming they reached safely.
  • Understand the landscape. Research the app market as there are other digital solutions offering more secure ride-hitching option than Facebook or Twitter requests. Make sure the appropriate security and privacy settings are enabled to help prevent stranger danger.
  • Consider monitoring software. Cellphone monitoring technology, sometimes also known as cellphone spyware may be another way of ensuring a safer and more controlled cellphone experience for your kids.  While never being a substitute to proper parenting and communication, such monitoring products come in handy offering parents a non-intrusive way to instantaneously identify potential risks areas.

Bottom line, parents should assume and expect the same responsibilities from their kids with smartphone use as they do with safe driving.  Both parents and children should understand the responsibility that comes with smartphone ownership.  Trends like cyber hitch-hiking may be convenient and fun if used appropriately among real friends, but it comes with dangers for virtual ones. It also presents many teachable opportunities to learn the value and importance of good communication for all parties.

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