The Dangers of Teens Behind the Wheel

Are you familiar with the “disease” that is the leading killer of teenagers, claiming the lives of 2,400 each year? What’s more is that this “disease” could easily be prevented through inexpensive behavior changes.

The truth is, no such “disease” exists: motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teenage deaths – not any disease.1,2 In 2012, 2,439 teen drivers and passengers died in motor vehicle crashes.3 In half of these fatal crashes, the teen wasn’t using a seat belt, and this proportion has been relatively unchanged over the last decade. In both fatal and nonfatal crashes, a greater percentage of passengers are unrestrained than drivers.4

SERIOUSLY how freaking hard is it to take 5 seconds to buckle up?!?!

The top reason teens gave for not buckling up is that they “forgot”, or that it just wasn’t a habit.  Note to Parents: These habits start young! Teens who aren’t using seat belts have indicated that they do not  see their parents use a seat belt when they drive. So parents: In order to help your teen stay safe on the road, set a good example!! Of course, not using a seat belt is only part of the issue. Teens who don’t use seat belts are almost more likely to admit that they text while driving than those who do wear seat belts — a problem that we all know is much too common. Of teens who don’t use  a seat belt admit to 73% texting while driving —  compared to 52% for those who do wear their seat belt. Granted, the goal is to have 0% of drivers texting and driving, but the point is that danger has been compounded by not wearing a seat belt with the greater likelihood of texting while driving.  Keeping teens safe in cars starts long before they are ready to drive or ride with friends. By following these tips, we can make sure that teens are making safe decisions when riding as passengers today and drivers tomorrow:

  • Make using a seat belt for every ride a habit, starting when kids are young.
  • Be a safety role model by observing speed limits, putting phones away while driving, and following the rules of the road.
  • Talk to teens and kids about ways to speak up if a driver of any age isn’t driving safely

Teens in Cars (SafeKids) Infographic courtesy of Safe Kids Worldwide

If you live in Indiana and would like to discuss your insurance with me Click Here. 


Related articles:

1. CDC Leading Causes of Death for Ages 13-19 in 2010
2. NHTSA 2010 Fatality Analysis (Ages 13-19)
3. NHTSA 2012 Fatality Analysis (Ages 13-19)
4. NHTSA 2003-2012 Fatality Analysis by Restraint Use (Ages 13-19)

Cyberbullying: The Scourge of the Internet

Facebook and other Social Media sites have become the new schoolyard for bullies — moving from the playground to the web — where they have 24 hour access to their victims.

Those Rumors You Spread About Me Made My Dog CryThe explosive growth of social media has enabled a lot of new opportunities for kids and teenagers that did not exist for many of us while growing up. But the proliferation of social networking has also come with a disgusting downside —Cyberbullying.

Conversations once held in the schoolyard have evolved to take place on Facebook, allowing for bullying and nastiness to become easier in the 24/7 world of social media, causing victims often feel that they have nowhere to hide –not even from the safety of their own home! Nearly 69% of kids ages 13 to 22 have experienced some for of cyberbullying, 20% of which saying what they experienced was “very extreme”.1 

Unfortunately, the sad reality is that most cyberbullying cases don’t make it to a criminal level –some bullying victims are tired of hiding in the depths of darkness and despair, which can lead to a tragic results such as suicide –or Bullycide. The mere fact that this is such a phenomenon that a portmanteau word has been created to define this tragedy is absolutely appalling.

Even more shocking, it was found that 75% of parents said that they do not have the time or energy to keep up with their kids’ online activities, 62% think their kids can’t get in trouble online and only 17% were said to believe that the online world posed similar dangers as the offline world.1 How in the world are parents supposed to protect their children from cyberbullies while remaining in the dark about who their kids are interacting with online, and how they are interacting with those people?!?

While sometimes it’s difficult to reach out and get our children to share about their lives, both on and offline, it’s imperative to educate our younger generation about online safety. There are a number of steps that parents can take to start the conversation, initiate precautionary measures, and respond in times of crises. First and most important though is to have that conversation and open the lines of communication for children to speak up offline about what they may be seeing online.

  • Talk about the news. Sometimes, it helps to have a real life incident to help you start the conversation and see how your child is feeling about the subject, what they think about it, and perhaps Internet safety in general. By both exposing them to the fact that many people deal with this issue, and opening that dialogue, it can help create a doorway to talk should something happen to your child or a friend.
  • Limit time spent with online devices. Whether your child is using the home desktop, a laptop, tablet or smartphone to access the Internet and/or social networking sites, give hard-stop time limits to their usage. Setting boundaries for social media interactions, and time limits for web activities is a good rule of thumb in general for kids. Some wireless providers will also allow you to block text messaging during certain hours.
  • Use filters and parental controls. Without the proper protection and filtering in place, you could be letting the world into your home through your computer monitor. Set up comprehensive protection for all of your family’s devices —computers and mobile—including safe web searching, risky site alerts, identity protection, time limitations and other parental controls.
  • Educate children on appropriate behaviors. Kids need to know that just because you can share something, it doesn’t mean that you should. A moment of poor judgment when it comes to online sharing can haunt you for the rest of your life. Help kids understand what type of content is and is not appropriate to share online and how to setup privacy controls for the information they post to social media sites.
  • Report inappropriate interactions. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the majority of social media sites have systems for blocking and reporting users who are being abusive or inappropriate. These can help keep your child safe, as well as make sure the user behind abusive accounts is held responsible. Visit the help section of each social media site for instructions on how to block or report a user.
  • If targeted, make sure your kids don’t retaliate. Cyberbullying incidents can often get worse if the exchange becomes more involved back and forth. While you don’t need to respond online, there are other ways to fight back. Assist your child in saving and documenting incidents to report to the police or school officials, if applicable. Keeping record is the best thing you can do when making a case against a bully.

Cyberbullying Infographic
Infographic courtesy of McAfee© Blog Central

If you live in Indiana and would like to discuss your insurance with me Click Here. 

Related articles:

1. Lynn News Cyberbulling Survey
2. Cyberbullying: Words do Hurt When it Comes to Social Media
Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/ ThatsNotCool.Com

Cyberbullying: What Your Kids Are Doing Online May Cost You

The rapid evolution of technology has affected the ways in which people and business communicate with each other in a very dramatic way –sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. The internet has become a forum that supports bullying and intimidation, fueling a worldwide growth of cyber liability. Right now the hot-button issue for parents is the risk of cyberbullying –both for parents of potential victims, as well as for parents of an accused cyberbully.

Stay Safe Online, Stop BullyingWhat in the world is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is the same as the more familiar form of bullying, only that it that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites. Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles. Because cyberbullying can happen in the 24/7 world of social media, victims often feel that they have nowhere to hide –even in the safety of their own home. Nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online –25% of them have had it happen more than once. 1 The end result of a Cyberbullying case can result in the loss of your lifetime savings, your house or other prized possessions. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that most cyberbullying cases don’t make it to a criminal level –some bullying victims are tired of hiding in the depths of darkness and despair, which can lead to a tragic results such as suicide –or Bullycide. The mere fact that this is such a phenomenon that a portmanteau word has been created to define this tragedy is absolutely appalling.

What can you do to protect your family?

Every homeowners policy is going to offer liability coverage at some level for “bodily injury or property damage” –but that definition does not include intangible damages for things like emotional distress, anxiety and mental injury –which are often the result of cyberbullying. This is not to mention the other violations your teen may encounter online –which my friend Alan McNaron covers beautifully in Personal Injury Protection from Social Media. In order to have any sort of coverage from a claim resulting from one of these kinds of situations a homeowners policy must have an endorsement that adds “personal injury” liability protection, which picks up the acts of libel, slander and defamation. But you still need to be careful –just because you have the coverage doesn’t mean you’re 100% protected! The only problem with this coverage will be with the exclusions, and there are likely to be more than one of them. It is not unusual to see an exclusion for “personal injury” if the insured (which also includes your kids) knew what they were doing was wrong or inaccurate. When you deal with a child’s access to the internet, compiled with the given errors in judgment, the risk for personal injury is certainly much greater –which also increases parents chances of being held liable.

The best defense against any type of exposure to this risk is to avoid it completely –always know what your children are doing online!

As a parent, you’ll likely want to allow your children to use technology for communications, learning and more –however you’re also going to want to be sure that they do so safely and securely. It is essential to establish household rules about technology use, as well as to monitor your child’s actions online.

Tips for establishing rules about proper use of technology:
  • Establish rules about appropriate use of computers, cell phones, and other technology. For example, be clear about what sites they can visit and what they are permitted to do when they’re online. Show them how to be safe online.
  • Help them be smart about what they post or say. Tell them not to share anything that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others. Once something is posted, it is out of their control whether someone else will forward it.
  • Encourage kids to think about who they want to see the information and pictures they post online. Should complete strangers see it? Real friends only? Friends of friends? Think about how people who aren’t friends could use it.
  • Educate their children about the potential dangers and lasting nature of a digital message
  • Tell kids to keep their passwords safe and not share them with friends. Sharing passwords can compromise their control over their online identities and activities
  • Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they, or someone they know, is being cyberbullied. Explain that you will not take away their computers or cell phones if they confide in you about a problem they are having
Tips for monitoring online activity:

Always know what your kids are doing online

  • Know the sites your kids visit and their online activities.
  • Tell your kids that as a responsible parent you may review their online communications if you think there is reason for concern. Installing parental control filtering software or monitoring programs are one option for monitoring your child’s online behavior, but do not rely solely on these tools.
  • Have a sense of what they do online and in texts. Learn about the sites they like. Try out the devices they use.
  • Ask to “friend” or “follow” your kids on social media sites or ask another trusted adult to do so. (92% of parents are Facebook friends with their children) 2
  • Ask for their passwords, but tell them you’ll only use them in case of emergency. (72% of parents have their child’s Facebook password) 2
All too often parents only learn about the actions of their children after the fact…once the legal proceedings begin.

If you live in Indiana and would like to discuss your insurance with me Click Here.

1. 11 Facts about Cyberbullying
2. Most Parents Monitor Kids on Facebook and Have their Password
Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/

A Word to the Wise about Mobile Security

Mobile SecurityEvan as an advocate for safety and security, I recently had my own little run in with something I did wrong…combined with something I did right.

A couple of weeks ago I came into work on the weekend, so I took advantage of the street parking next to our building in the heart of Downtown Lafayette. It was a nice sunny day, so I left my window slightly cracked so my car wouldn’t be hot when I returned. I didn’t think anything of this action, I’ve always felt extremely (albeit naively) safe in Lafayette, it was broad daylight, and our Courthouse was in broad view only 50ft away –seriously, what could go wrong?

Low and behold I received a call from the Lafayette Police to notify me that someone from a local business saw four juveniles reach into my car and successfully pull my purse out of it. Some of my belongings were tossed onto my car windshield (apparently my business cards weren’t viewed as valuable –the nerve!), while an assortment of my belongings were scattered all around downtown –it was quite the scavenger hunt.  I was extremely fortunate to find my wallet about a block away (everything was still intact except for my pocket change), my checkbook was in the bushes nearby as well. Over by the bus stop the officer found my purse. Sadly I am still uncertain as to what else may be missing as a local business recently brought in my dental insurance card –something I had yet to notice as missing. One item that was missing that was not immediately recovered was my iPhone.

This is where the moral of my story comes in –it is ABSOLUTELY important essential that anybody who has a Smart-Phone set a passcode on it for security. 

If you don’t have a passcode on your phone then anybody who gains possession of it would have access to everything you’ve got stored on it. Phones can contain tremendous amounts of personal information. Lost or stolen devices can be used to gather information about you and. potentially, others. Protect your phone like you would your computer. With the endless apps that make our world convenient it is also opening up a world of convenience to a thief. I can’t express this enough for those of you who have access to work email on your phone –without a passcode lock on your phone you are giving someone else access to confidential information (not to mention the ability to send raunchy emails to your contacts “from you” should they be so inclined). Even if you don’t have access to your work email, but have a smart phone….LOCK IT!

If you have an iPhone I strongly encourage you to enable the Find my iPhone technology that it comes with and enable it –this brilliant piece of technology along with the amazing help of LPD is what allowed me to recover my phone.  At the time of the theft my phone was turned off so I couldn’t locate my iPhone –however I enabled the feature to “Notify me when iPhone is found.”  That night I was sent an alert with an exact address and map of where my iPhone was located, I called the officer who helped me out in the day, and she went to the house and retrieved it for me!  Now that is technology and law enforcement at its absolute finest!

While this whole ordeal was a royal pain, it ultimately all worked out well in the end –not to mention the fact that I was provided with the added bonus of the girl taking multiple pictures of herself, along with a couple of videos of her singing the Star Spangled Banner –mementos I will certainly treasure for a while.

So that said, I beg you to follow this advice to protect your personal information:
  1. LOCK YOUR PHONE!  If you have work email on your phone this really shouldn’t even be an option, consider it a MUST!
  2. If you do have an iPhone, be sure to utilize the Find my iPhone utility –it is absolutely brilliant and you never know when you might need it. Android users can take advantage of a similar service with the Where’s My Droid App.
  3. Don’t leave your windows cracked, not even slightly –neither daylight nor a nearby courthouse is enough to deter someone from a mischievous opportunity
Please take my advice and learn from my experience.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/