Here are a couple reasons that grownups think teenagers are idiots.
- They know some teenagers
- They were once teenagers themselves
My friends and I did a lot of stupid stuff when I was a teenager, even though there was nothing wrong with most of our brains. I was one of the worst out of my group of stupid friends.
During much of my high school career, the couple years I "took off" afterward, and even into my college years, I made an art form of being irresponsible, unreliable, untrustworthy, and a danger to myself and others. Some of my behavior might have been cute, harmless, and merely frustrating. But driving drunk is in a different category. It's simply indefensible. And I did it. Frequently.
I don't have to tell you how horrible driving drunk is. That's not what this post is about. This is about how incorrigible, unreasonable, and unreachable some teenagers are. Like I was.
There are dozens of stories I could share of close calls and terrible decisions I made behind the wheel, but here's perhaps the best illustration of what an idiot I was. A week before the start of our senior year of high school, one of my best friends--a much more responsible and promising kid than me--crashed his car into a tree and was killed. I was sitting in the back seat at the time. I suffered a cracked vertebra in my neck that didn't end up being a big deal, but could have put me in a wheelchair. We hadn't been drinking, but we were being stupid teenagers.
You'd think I would have gotten the message that driving a car is serious business.
You'd be wrong.
I became even more cavalier about drinking and driving. Maybe I thought that the loss of my friend gave me a free pass. I'm sure there was a lot of rationalizing, anesthetizing, and magical thinking going on; but the point is that even that trauma was not enough to get me to stop being an asshole.
My parents did the best that they could to protect me from myself. They didn't know the extent of my recklessness, but they knew something was up. They briefly got me into counseling (at the Army hospital, where I was too honest and the shrink was too rigid and the process did not have the desired effect), and at home we talked endlessly about my irresponsibility. I didn't really resent these talks, and in fact was usually in agreement with them about what a jerk I was. I suspect that my self-awareness made them think that I was trying to change.
Despite my recalcitrance, I had a good relationship with my parents. But when it came down to it, there wasn't much they could do to control my behavior when I wasn't within arm's reach. I was a slippery little fuck, and managed to avoid serious trouble.
If they would have had the technology to monitor me when I was out of the house, I don't know if they would have used it. I know that I would have resented it if they had, and would have done whatever I could to circumvent it.
These days, of course, all kids have cell phones and no excuses to be out of contact with their parents. And new products are coming out all the time that allow parents to track their kids with GPS, snoop on their facebook accounts, monitor their web browsing, and so forth.
The biggest issue with these products, as far as I'm concerned, is that in using them, you have to let your kids know that you don't really trust them. Luckily, I don't have to think about that much right now, since my kids are 2 and I don't mind telling them that I don't trust them to do so much as eat a bowl of cereal by themselves, and if I could cheaply have chips embedded in their flesh that would allow me to track them with my iPhone, I would do it in a heartbeat. Likewise, I don't have a problem with telling a teenager, "No...in fact, I don't trust you. I've been your age before." At least I don't have a problem with it in theory. But we'll see how I really deal with that when the teenager is my kid.
When I first looked at this, I started thinking about how you might trick the device, or otherwise get over on your watchful parents. That was my wife's instinct too, and my teenaged nephew's when I asked them what they thought of the product. My nephew (a responsible, non-stupid kid) figured that the guys he knows who are like I was as a kid would just ignore it. I can only imagine how quickly that thing would have gotten "lost", "broken", "stolen", or just "not worked" if my parents had gotten one for me.
On the other hand, for kids who may just need a little more motivation to be responsible, or even an excuse to avoid peer pressure ("My stupid mom makes me breathe into this stupid thing! Gah!"), it could possibly help prevent tragedy.
What do you guys think? Could this thing work? Would you use it on your kid? Would it be a violation of trust and privacy? Does that even matter when lives are at stake?