Driving and Navigating in a Digital Era


When a child turns 16 , according to most state laws, they are ready to learn to drive. We, parents and adults, prepare them. We help them study for the permit test and practice with them and give them guidance on what the test will be like. They often will take sample tests before the real test. They may pass and receive their permit the first time, or may require a bit more time to make sure the knowledge is truly learned.

But let me back up to the years before that magical age. When they were little, they watched how you put on your seat belt, then they were eventually able to put on their seat belt. Children watch how we put the windows up and down and how the doors lock and how the windshield wipers are turned on and off. They study the radio and the steering wheel and the gear shift. They know that you need to turn on the lights at night and the heat in the winter. They surely know what the radio, cd player and possibly the DVD player in the backseat do.

So when they are legally able to drive, you aren’t starting at the beginning with them. You don’t have to teach them to open the door, sit down and start the vehicle. They have been learning from you for years.

Once they pass their test, you ride with them, teach them how to merge, yield and understand who goes first at a four way stop sign. You ride with them for many months until you are sure they are ready to take the driving test and then be on their own.

Once you give them the keys for the first time, you have probably already given them a list of expectations. Be home by dark, no friends in the car, no speeding. And absolutely no texting and driving. You teach your child to be a mature on the highway with the goal of creating responsible and safe driver. You love your child and you want them to be safe and make good decisions on the highway. You may have told your child that it’s not them you worry about, but the irresponsibility of other drivers. You do this because you know the dangers of the highway. You teach them how to drive because you know how to drive.


As your child grows up, and at a much younger age, there is good chance they will ask you for an iPod, tablet, or smartphone. And there will come a time that you will feel it’s reasonable to give your child some sort of digital device. It is just as much a “coming of age” ritual as getting a drivers license for the younger generations.

Your child has watched and practiced on digital devices at school and with friends or family. They have observed and know what they do and how they work. They will quickly learn how to navigate the web.
Now a few questions.

  • Did you spent time talking to them about expectations before you buy the device?
  • Did you spend time with them once they have the device teaching them how to safely and responsibly use it?
  • Do you know how it works as well as they do?
  • Do you know the world of social media, communication and photo sharing apps?
  • Do you know the irresponsibility of some users that your child may encounter?
  • Do you know how to teach your child to navigate through digital connectivity?