Should you let your teenager use a ride-sharing app? How safe is Uber for teens? Or Lyft?
Back in my day, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and telephones had yet to be invented, the teenage transportation method of choice was the mom or dad mobile. Before any of us could drive, the only way we got anywhere was by begging our parents to drive us. When they agreed, we piled into the backseat, suffering through embarrassing family stories and awkward small talk, on our way to the mall or movie theater.
Today’s teenagers have a lot more options. Public transportation is an inexpensive option, but it’s time-consuming and can be difficult to navigate. Plus, many smaller cities and towns don’t have comprehensive public transportation. As a result, more teenagers are turning to their smartphones instead of mom and dad when they need a ride.
Ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft give teens constant access to a car, and it’s up to us as parents to help them navigate their options. Before you sign your teenager up for a ride-sharing app, consider these five things.
It’s Technically Not Allowed
Since all of my teenagers’ friends regularly use ride-sharing apps, I assumed minors were allowed to use their services. What might surprise you is that none of the popular ride-sharing apps allow minors to have their own accounts or even to ride without an adult.
In practice, I’ve never heard of a teenager being denied a ride, and certainly my own teens and their friends regularly use ride-sharing services. While it’s probably unlikely that your teenager will be denied a ride or have their account suspended, it’s still something to consider.
Ride-sharing Apps Might Not Be As Safe As You Might Think
Anytime your teenagers get into a car, even when you’re the one behind the wheel, there is a risk of getting into an accident. At first glance, ride-sharing apps don’t seem much different, and they may actually be safer than letting teenagers drive each around. What parents might not consider is that ride-sharing services present other types of safety issues for teens, including a risk of rape and sexual or physical assault.
Unfortunately, these risks aren’t confined to ride-sharing apps. Anytime your teenager goes out into the world, there is the risk of something happening to them. While the risk is low, it’s still something for parents to consider before making a decision.
Easy Access for Teens Makes it Difficult to Monitor for Parents
Part of the reason teens love ride-sharing apps is because they are easy. All they have to do is tap an app and a car arrives at their door; what’s not to love?
For parents, giving their teens easy access to transportation may be less appealing. Unfettered access to a ride allows teens to evade the rules while making it almost impossible for parents to curtail their access to transportation without taking away their smartphones entirely. Instead of letting teens sign up for their own accounts and call their own rides, parents can avoid some of these pitfalls by acting as gatekeeper of the ride-sharing apps.
You’re Footing the Bill
Unlike taxis, ride-sharing apps handle payment electronically—and when teenagers are concerned that usually means you’re the one paying the bill. In theory, teens ask permission to use a ride-sharing app before making a charge, but I’ve yet to meet a teenager who always asked permission when confronted by a long walk and a really rainy day. If you enjoy knowing what’s being done with your credit or debit card, giving your teen access to a ride-sharing app might not be for you.
It Fosters Independence in Them, While Making Life Easier for You
In a world that often feels hectic, outsourcing some of your teens’ transportation needs can be a lifesaver. It’s quick and easy to send your teen to soccer practice using a ride-sharing app instead of leaving work early just to play chauffeur.
Plus, there’s something to be said for giving teens the opportunity to build independence while they are still living at home. Using ride-sharing apps can be a great bridge between being entirely dependent on mom and dad, and heading out in their own car. Ride-sharing apps help teens build navigation and time-management skills in a (mostly) safe environment.