Cash Bribes Convince Teens to Put Down the Smartphone and Drive

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Parenting is tricky business from the minute kids are born. It’s a constant struggle to get them to do the right thing, which only becomes more of a challenge as they get older. A recent study suggests the struggle to get teens to put down their smartphones when they’re driving could be solved with cold, hard cash.

Yes, your read that right. Bribing your kids with a monetary incentive works. This isn’t exactly the kind of parenting strategy experts say we should take with kids. If you pick up most parenting handbooks, they’ll tell you that bribing your kids is a bad call. If you have kids, then it’s likely you have bribed them at some point anyway.

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It may have been to get them to quiet down in a restaurant or eat their veggies or any one of the million small challenges parents face everyday. Sometimes you’re simply at you wit’s end and can’t think of any other solution. Bribing to keep kids from using their smartphones while driving is a little different since ignoring your request on this particular issue could get them killed.

The study took a look at 153 teen drivers age 16-17 who had smartphones and admitted to texting while driving. Through a series of questions in an online survey, the study then determined the likely success of various strategies designed to get them to stop.

The most effective method for getting teens to put down their smartphones when driving was a financial incentive with 75 percent saying they’d give up their phones for cash. Taking cash away was slightly less effective with 63 percent saying it would work. So, simply cutting a kid’s allowance isn’t as solid a strategy as giving them a little extra cash instead.

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It you aren’t ready to bribe your kids to get them to be more responsible behind the wheel, there are other ways to make sure they put down their smartphones. Automatic phone locking while driving came in at 54 percent, while insurance discounts came in at 53 percent. An automatic email to mom and dad also ranked highly at 47 percent.

What didn’t get high ratings is the strategy every parent employs at some point. Parental concern came in at an abysmal 15 percent, so all those heartfelt talks with your kids about the dangers of texting and driving and how worried you are for their safety don’t work.

That’s a frightening thought and one that could have you immediately opening your wallet and handing out money. Although the study showed this works, that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to combat distracted driving. You should still talk to your kids to make sure they understand the dangers of distracted driving and model good behavior when you’re the one at the wheel.

And, if it feels like the right parenting move for you, then go ahead and offer the financial incentive. Like every other parenting choice, there are people who will criticize and people who will praise, but you need to do the right thing for your kids and your family to help keep them safe on the road.

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Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin