Do We All Need a Helicopter Mom?

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Helicopter Moms hover around their children to make sure they are safe and making good choices. More and more, our government and even private corporations are taking steps to hover and ensure we the people, or “the children” in this scenario, are making good choices.

Laws have traditionally been the “hovering device” of choice, but recently, technology is making a strong debut in creating solid hovering capabilities. Some of these changes are probably for the best, but in America, where we are all taught we have the freedom to make bad choices, it’s a lot to stomach.

Here are some of the “hovering capabilities” already implemented or are on the horizon to put the smack down on bad choices.

  • Bad Choice: Drunk Driving

Now, everyone can agree that drunk driving is a bad choice. According to MADD.org, “In 2013, 10,076 people were killed, and approximately 290,000 were injured.” Drunk driving is a serious problem and one that has spawned legislation and vast government programs designed to educate the public and catch drunk drivers. On July 1, 2015, Connecticut became the most recent state to enact laws requiring anyone caught for drunk driving to install an ignition interlock device. In total, 21 states have mandatory offender interlock laws, and all 50 states have some sort of ignition interlock device law. MADD trumpets these laws as being highly effective. For example, in 2013, drunk driving deaths in Kansas dropped by 31%, and this drop is largely attributed to the all-offender interlock law implemented in 2011.

In a lot of ways, I can see how a mandatory interlock law makes sense. It’s the “I gave you free reign, but you made a bad choice, and now I can’t trust you” approach. This legislative and technology combo is definitely a parental approach but given the general public’s safety is at risk, this is one case where helicopter parenting makes sense.

  • Bad Choice: Distracted Driving

Distracted driving, a phenomenon previously used to describe playing with the radio while driving or paying attention to anything other than the road, is now reaching epic proportions thanks to the advent of smart phones. The Huffington Post recently reported on June 8, 2015, that 9 Americans are killed every single day as a direct result of distracted driving. In a recent AT&T survey, 49% of adults in the U.S. responded that they text and drive, even though 98% agreed it was dangerous to do so. Our government has created a web site, distraction.gov, devoted to educating the public about the dangers of distracted driving, recent legislation, and current events related to the topic.

Toyota is currently testing an ad campaign that advises drivers to use Siri to turn on airplane mode when driving. It’s not a great stretch to imagine automakers developing technology that automatically forces smart phones into airplane mode when in an automobile.

Most states currently have passed some sort of law related to the use of cell phones. Is a mandatory device installed in each car of an offender the next step in solving this growing problem of adults making bad choices? Or will automakers, or perhaps smart phone manufacturers, beat the government to the punch and create an app that automatically turns into airplane mode when it detects auto-like movement?

  • Bad Choice: Not Wearing One’s Seat Belt

I am old enough to remember when the seat belt laws first came out. Automakers created annoying sounds that wouldn’t stop until the seat belts were buckled and sometime around that time states started making it illegal to ride in the front seat without a seat belt. I remember feeling angry that Big Brother had invaded my freedom to drive without a seat belt. Eons later, I am so used to wearing a seat belt that I feel awkward not wearing one. I put mine on before the car even starts to beep. I’m completely trained and, therefore, in theory, a safer driver.

  • Bad Choice – Sugar? Soda? What’s to come?

As a mother with elementary age children, I quickly became used to the idea of our preschool ensuring that I made a good choice as a mother and sent the kids to school with only water to drink. No sugary juices allowed. In our school, someone decided that garlic knots on pizza day are not acceptable for kindergarteners, so only 1st graders and above can order them.

In some ways, I am thankful that our preschool took the step to ensure my children were used to drinking water. They don’t think about it, and they view juice as a treat. Soda is a forbidden entity. My children are far more aware of good and bad food choices than I was as a kid.

In other ways, I find myself somewhat annoyed because I’m now a real adult. There are days I don’t feel like it, but at age 43, I’m a full-fledged, scarily close to AARP status adult. And yet, at all turns, I have a Helicopter Mom seeking to make sure I make the right decisions. I didn’t agree with the garlic knots decree but was unsuccessful in changing the rule. I suppose road rules are for the common good. It’s really difficult to argue with steps to force good choices like safety belts and no cell phones while driving. But food choices are more personal, and the impact to the community is less tangible. But with abundant calorie tracking devices and an increasing ability to manage calories in and out, it’s conceivable that technology could be used to ensure a person didn’t exceed individual calorie limits each day. Such a device could be mandatory for anyone that reaches obese status.

I find myself asking, where do we draw the line on Helicopter Mom? And, are we developing a society of adults dependent on a hovering device, aka Helicopter Mom, to ensure we make good choices?

  • Related Stories:

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Lisa Lippiner covers driving news for DMVCheatSheets.com
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