Texting and driving is dangerous. It can be deadly. It’s wrong. I think even if you are among those who still text and drive, you would likely agree with me on those facts. Look a little closer at the “lesson” being taught last week at Brohead High School in Wisconsin and you will also surely agree that lying to our children and betraying their trust is also wrong, dangerous, and potentially deadly.
During morning announcements in this small school it was announced that four students had been killed in a car crash. Details were given, including the “fact” that texting while driving had been a factor in the crash, and how one of the victims had been rushed to the hospital, but did not survive. The students who were the pretend victims in this crash were instructed not to answer messages from classmates during this time. Ten minutes later, the announcement was made that this had been a drill. Throughout the day, more announcements were broadcast, including one claiming that a drunk driver had T-boned and killed more students from Brodhead. Students were distraught, confused, and of course, saddened by these announcements. Students who had a problem with the lesson being taught here were told they were weak and drama-filled. Really? This is how we teach children? It wouldn’t be compassionate, wise, or kind to pretend that someone was dead in order to teach a lesson to an adult, so why is it okay to do this to children? The answer, of course, is – it isn’t.
When we lie to our kids about anything, but in this case deaths caused from texting and driving, we create the potential for them to shut down when we tell them something that is true. This lesson actually did the opposite of what its presenters were hoping for. These kids were traumatized, no doubt, but this exercise will not cause them to stop texting and driving, because the consequences were false. If anything, it will make them less likely to stop texting while driving because the only real lesson here was not to trust what adults say.
When we lie to our kids, we betray the very trust required to teach any type of valuable life lesson. If we think this “drill in safe driving techniques” is a useful one, then surely we can think of more intelligent ways to get there. Even if we agree that it takes a dose of reality to sink in a lesson for teenagers, surely we can see that this particular strategy was not reality based. The students who were supposedly dead, were not. There is no reality to be seen because there is no truth to the consequences of the pretend texting and driving incident. There is no lesson here, except that adults lie to get their way, and adults can’t be trusted. Is that really the lesson we want to teach?
Editor, Ask Lala
Laura Fogarty writes “Ask Lala” for the Stop Abuse Campaign. She is a mother, an advocate and the author of two children’s abuse prevention books: I’M THE BOSS OF ME! and WE ARE JUST ALIKE!