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A Must-Watch Video on Texting and Driving

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.

I’ve often wondered why my kids rarely call their friends and answer their phones when I call. But when I text them, their responses are almost instantaneous.  

Can't view the video? Watch it here.

Texting has revolutionized the way our children communicate with one another and, for many of us parents, the way that we and our children communicate. Most revolutions, however, create unintended consequences. Such is the case with this one. The challenge for today’s teens (and adults) is that texting has become such a ubiquitous form of communication that one could argue it’s a form of addiction. (I often joke with my oldest daughter that given how often she texts she might as well graft her phone to her forearm.) If you don’t agree, try taking your child’s phone away for a week or even a few days and see how your child reacts.  

To put the dangers of texting and driving in perspective, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that texting and driving is six times more dangerous than driving drunk. As the father of two teenage drivers, I am as concerned about them texting and driving as I am about them driving drunk (or getting into a car with someone who texts and drives or who drives drunk). This video is the most remarkable video you’ll ever see on texting and driving. It focuses not only on the devastating impact on victims caused by car accidents when someone texts and drives, it also focuses on the devastating impact of the people who cause the devastation.  

Please share this post and video because doing so might save a life. If your children drive or are near driving age, make them watch it.  

For more information on the national campaign to reduce texting and driving, visit It Can Wait.

Do you set a good example by not texting and driving?

The Risks of Teen Driving & What Dad Can Do (Infographic)

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S., killing more teens than suicide and homicide combined. Understanding how to prevent these crashes is critical, particularly right now. The days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are known as the 100 deadliest days for teen drivers.  

home 21

I don't remember exactly how old I was, maybe 17. I had not been driving for longer than a year. It was my junior year of high school. Driving home from school, the weather was beautiful and sunny. I had four people in my '89 Honda Accord and thought I was so cool. That faithful day, I learned two lessons about teen driving.

  1. Don't follow too closely: I ran smack into the car in front of me that day. I was quickly told by the kind police officer that—pretty much anytime a person runs into another car—it's the person driving the car with the crashed front bumper's fault.
  2. Don't have a car-load of people in your car. You can't be responsible for all of those people if you have an accident.

So, my point in telling you this is to point out that, as parents, there is more to teaching your child about driving than simply passing a driving test. Dad, you must be intentional about teaching your teen to be responsible with his/her vehicle.

The National Safety Council explains driver safety in two ways:

1. Know the Teen Driving Risks

  • Driving is dangerous: The year your teen get his driver's license is the most exciting—and dangerous—year of his life.
  • Lack of practice: Inexperience is the leading cause of teen crashes.
  • Distractions: From cell phones to applying makeup, it's vital your teen stay focused on driving.
  • Scanning the road: There's only about three seconds—one to recognize the hazard—two to react. But you can't react to something you don't see. Discuss the importance of looking out for potential hazards constantly.
  • Unsafe speed: Teens often break the speed limit just for fun, but it's vital he/she understands the importance of knowing the speed limit wherever he/she drives.
  • Passengers: How many teens can safely ride with new drivers? None!
  • Seatbelt use: Seatbelts save lives. That is all.
  • Night driving: 16 and 17 year olds are three time more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash at night.
  • Impaired driving: From drinking, drugs and drowsiness—all 50 states have zero tolerance laws for underage drinking and driving for a reason

2. Know What You Can Do

You can help reduce your teen's driving risk. Simply staying involved with your teen goes a long way toward keeping your teen safe. Here are five things to keep in mind:
  • Practice with your teen: sit beside them often as they drive—both before and after your teen gets her license. 
  • Set a good example: drive the way you want your teen to drive. Remember, they don't stop learning once they get their license.
  • Sign a parent-teen agreement: a written agreement can help define expectations—for you and your teen.
  • Let your teen earn privileges: one of the best ways your teen can show he is ready for new privileges is to show they can handle the ones you have already given.
  • Let other parents know how you feel: once you know all the stats and ways to be more careful, get the word out by telling your friends. You will help your community by helping let others know what to watch out for regarding teens and driving.

The National Safety Council (NSC) has also recently launched a website for parents of teen drivers at DriveitHOME.org. Through videos, weekly driving tips and more, NSC wants to help parents navigate their teens driving experience.

Can't see video? Click here.

Please help spread the word about how to keep our teen drivers safe on our roads. Share this infographic with everyone you know who has teen drivers.

Teen Driving infographic

Connect with other dads of teen drivers:

Have you ever been involved in a car accident? How old were you?

Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

13 Apps to Keep Your Family Safe, Secure and Smart

Smartphones are getting smarter every day. It seems that there are apps for just about everything, from determining whether rain and clouds are likely to ruin your ballgame, to checking the scores (or watching it live).

iPhone 4's Retina Display v.s. iPhone 3G

Using free or low-cost apps, you can even transform your old smartphone into a wireless security camera to help protect your home and your family. Apps like 'Presence' allow you to turn a second phone into a remote video camera, allowing you to keep tabs on pets, kids or elderly relatives while you are at work or anywhere else, without having to install a pricey home security system.

Keeping Your Kids Safe
Most importantly, apps and other electronic tricks are available that will help protect your children. For example, the start-up company SmartThings is developing a "key fob" you can attach to your child's backpack. It signals you by text when your child leaves the house in the morning and arrives home from school in the afternoon. And you can download a variety of apps that will help ease your mind when your children are somewhere other than at your side.

1. FBI Child ID: This app, developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, lets you store photos and other vital information about your children. If it ever becomes necessary, you can easily provide authorities with a picture of your child, along with physical information such as height and weight.

fbi child id app

 

2. Sex Offender Search: Download this app and you'll always know about sex offenders who live in or near your neighborhood. The information comes from the National Sex Offender Registry.

sex offender search

 

3. Find My Kids - Footprints: You can use this app to track your children in real time and also to find out where they've been recently. The app lets you set up geofences – your child's school, for example – and notifies you if those fences are crossed.

find my kids footprints app

 

4. Near Parent: This app permits your kids to check in occasionally to let you know they are OK. If you child actually needs help, a request is sent to trusted adults chosen by you. In addition, you can be notified about impending violent weather such as floods, tornadoes and earthquakes.

near parent app

 

5. AMBER Alert: Developed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, this app was designed to help find missing children. If you have information about a missing child, you can push a button that automatically calls NCMEC's toll-free hotline.

amber alert app

 

6. Hero (by Apptooth): This app helps spread information quickly about abductions, robberies and car accidents. By pressing a button, users can send video, audio and GPS coordinates to their social networking contacts and others within a five-mile radius.

hero security app

 

7. Norton Online Family: This app allows parents to monitor their kids' Web browsing, social media activity and searches on the Internet, to keep them from visiting inappropriate sites and to limit their time on their computer.

norton online family app

 

8. McGruff SafeGuard Browser: This app permits parents to limit their child's access to pornography and gambling sites. Parents also can view a daily summary of their kid's travels on the Internet.

mcgruff web browser security

 

9. iEmergency ICE Family PRO: This app lets parents store health data concerning allergies, prescriptions and medical conditions. ICE stands for "In Case of Emergency."

iEmergency app

 

10. Food Additives 2: This app offers information on food additives that can be harmful to your children.

food additives 2 app

 

11. iCam: Have you ever wanted to monitor what your kids are doing at home while you're at work? If so, this app is for you. It lets you watch live video from any room in your house, as long as you have a webcam and a computer in the room.

iCam app

 

12. SecuraFone: This app uses a smartphone's GPS to locate your children and tell you how fast they are driving. It also can notify you if your child ventures beyond a specific geographic area.

securafone app

 

13. mamaBear: You want your children to be safe in the physical world, but you also want them to be safe online. This app monitors your child's Facebook feed, alerting you about bullying and crude language.

mamabear app

 

Your smartphone can be a valuable weapon in the battle to keep your home and your family safe and secure.

What other apps have you found useful for keeping your family and home safe?

Teach Your Own Child To Swim—Or Let A Swim Teacher Do It?

The following is a post from Becky Flanigan. Becky writes for PoolCenter.com and is married with 3 kids and 2 golden retrievers. So she knows a thing or two about kids and swimming! Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

Parents of young children will have to address the issue of their child learning how to swim. The question then becomes – who can do a better job of teaching the child to swim – the parent, or a swim instructor? A parent can do a lot to prepare their child for the water. On the other hand, a swim instructor can teach swimming strokes and advanced lessons more thoroughly.

No Swimming

So which way is best – the parent teacher, or swim instructor lessons?

Why not do both? Have the parent start the process, and then finish with swim lessons.

Preparing the toddler. According to Parents.com, a parent can do a lot for a child to get them more comfortable with the water. It is recommended that formal lessons not begin until age 4 – when a child has physically developed enough to stay afloat. Up to that age, a parent can spend time allowing the child to get used to being in the water. While holding the child at all times, the parent can let a baby splash in the water, bob around, and play gentle games in the water. Aside from bonding time, the child begins to develop a positive attitude about water.

When the child is a bit older. By age 2 to 3 years, the child may be more active and curious in the water – but will still need to be held at all times. The parent can allow the child reach for a ball, kick his legs and begin learning to float. As the child learns to blow bubbles in the water, he’s learning to get his face wet without ingesting water. Pool safety can be addressed – emphasizing not running at the pool, and only going into the water with the parent.

It’s time for lessons. By the time a child is 4 to 5 years old, they should have developed the coordination needed to swim by themselves. They should be able to float independently, submerge their head under water for several seconds, and go from a standing to swimming position without help. As well, research for PoolCenter.com revealed that children should be able to glide through the water, and begin to use coordinated movements with their arms and legs.

The advantages of lessons. Bonding with your child while teaching them water skills can be fun, but there are some significant reasons to sign up for swim lessons. As described by 247moms, there are a number of benefits of swim lessons:

  • Proper techniques taught by experienced instructors. While a parent may be limited in their knowledge of proper swim techniques, an instructor who has been certified knows the proper swimming strokes and how to teach them.
  • Reducing the fear of water. Lessons can help the child develop skills which will reduce their fear of water. A child who has to sit by the side of the pool while others swim is only adding to fears they might have about the water. With a solid knowledge of swimming strokes, that fear is reduced.
  • Building confidence. An experienced instructor who is committed to the success of their students can greatly increase a child’s self confidence, by helping them master swimming skills, and by honoring each success.
  • Promoting physical activity. By developing swim skills, swim lessons encourage a child into a more active  lifestyle than sitting in front of the TV playing video games. Especially if those lessons are taught in a group, they model how fun water activities can be, and encourage social development.
  • Reduced chances of drowning. The American Academy of Pediatrics has done research which suggests that kids who had formal swim training had lower chances of drowning.

Especially during the baby and toddler years, there are many things a parent can do to promote their child’s enjoyment of the water. Once that child has reached 4 to 5 years of age, swim lessons with an experienced instructor build a child’s abilities and confidence, preparing them for a lifetime of safe enjoyment of the water.

Parents: Who taught you how to swim?

Becky Flanigan was an English major in college, and now uses those skills when writing freelance articles for PoolCenter.com. She spends many happy hours at the family swimming pool, watching the kids and dogs splash and play.

Connect with The Father Factor by RSSFacebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor. 

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