Bill Stemberger

By Bill Stemberger,
Attorney at Law

Nothing brings exciting opportunities for fun, personal growth, and goal achievement like the start of a new year.  This is especially true for teens and young adults whose worlds have been expanded by advances in technology and communication options once thought impossible. 

Unfortunately, it’s also true that some community members will be impacted by negative events and circumstances in 2020.  Many are unavoidable, or the result of simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time. However, we also counsel families in our law office each year who may have prevented an accident or legal issue by communicating more often and effectively with their teens about staying aware and avoiding risky situations.   

In an effort to do more to reduce the number of unfortunate incidents in our community, we are encouraging everyone to take a few moments at the beginning of this year to discuss strategies for staying safe with your teens.  Below are several examples involving the use of technology, along with ideas for broaching the subject and generating buy-in:

  • Distraction is a key factor in nearly 60 percent of crashes involving teen drivers.  Peer passengers, talking or texting on the cell phone, changing the radio, eating, or applying makeup are all dangerous distractions and should be reinforced as such with teens on a regular basis.

  • Turn on location tracking with at least one responsible adult.  Many of today’s social media and smartphone applications allow users to share their physical location with others.  While it’s preferred that your teen share their location with you, ensure that they do so with at least one other responsible adult who can access their whereabouts if necessary.

  • Leave an area where illegal or unethical conduct is taking place.  Even though many teens recognize that cameras are everywhere, they often feel they aren’t at risk if not directly participating in problematic conduct.  Emphasize to them that simply being present at the wrong place when cameras are rolling can have long-lasting negative impacts on their reputation.

  • Don’t dismiss a bad feeling.  If something or someone doesn’t feel right to your teen, make sure they know it’s okay to follow that instinct.  This is especially true when it comes to social media interactions. Often times, young adults are too concerned about offending a person they don’t know or being labeled rude by not responding to requests to interact over social media.  Be sure they understand that they are never obligated to respond to someone they do not know or continue to engage with a person who makes them uncomfortable.

  • Never share or forward inappropriate content.  This is one of the hardest things for today’s youth to understand because their first instinct is to share information and pictures that appear on their phone.  However, some of the most problematic issues we see involve teens who have shared nude photographs, test answers, or other information about peers or adults that they did not create.

We wish you and your family a safe and exciting 2020.  Happy New Year!