Texting IS their form of communication. Last year, the State of California passed a “Hands-Free” law which requires that all drivers use a speakerphone or headset if they are going to talk on the phone while driving. They also made it illegal to text and drive.
I’ve been researching and I have three solutions to offer parents. Two are applications for cell phones; one that kills the texting function in cell phones, while the other enables cell phone users to speak a short message, which automatically converts to a text message and is sent to a recipient and lastly, a parent-driven tactic using the cell phone company’s optional services.
Turning off the Texting
The first is an application for the G1 Android phone from a company called, Textecution. Once installed, it sits quietly in the background and allows your teen to use their phone as they normally would. It recognizes that the phone is traveling faster than 10mph and it disables the phone’s texting feature so text messages cannot be sent or received. Once the phone is at rest, or traveling at a speed slower than 10mph, the texting feature seamlessly becomes available for use, and text messages may be sent or received. The cost is $9.99 and seems easy to install. They kill the texting feature by linking to the phone’s GPS system. It can also disable internet functions. I like this application but unfortunately, it is only available for the G1.
Turning Texting into Voice Messages
Mobivox provides a different approach for parents. The company (which offers calling and messaging services) has a voice-activated application that enables users to record a short message, which is then automatically transcribed and delivered in minutes as a “short message service” (SMS) text or as an email message. Recipients must already be included as contacts in the caller’s Mobivox address book. The cost is $1.9/minute. Personally, I don’t like this solution so much. I want them to be driving, not thinking about communicating.
Using Your Phone Company’s Options
The parent-driven tactic: Pay the $2-$5 to the cell phone company to disable the text function for set periods within the day. For instance, if you know your teen is going to drive home from school or in the evening, you can turn off their texting capabilities for a set period of time. You can block out whatever period you want and it resumes once the blocked period has ended. It’s invisible to the user. They just can’t text. I like this option the best because it also covers other times in the day when I don’t want them to be texting – like homework-time.
It would be great to trust our teens not to make dumb decisions like texting while driving. But, they are teenagers. They are tempted and they DO make mistakes. Let’s not make their mistakes life-threatening – to themselves and to other drivers.
I will continue to research this and please write in if you have found other solutions.