EDITORIAL: They learn it from you, parents

York Dispatch

Many of us probably remember a public service announcement that was mocked and became a meme in a time before the Internet cranked out new memes daily.

It goes like this:

A father confronts his teenage son about a box of drug paraphrenalia found in the boy's closet.

"Answer me!" the father scolds. "Who taught you how to do this stuff?"

The boy finally answers, "You, all right? I learned it by watching you!"

And the narrator says: "Parents who use drugs have children who use drugs."

Ouch. That was pretty hard-hitting for 1987.

Of course good parents want what's best for their children, but those same good parents should know their kids are watching when Mom and Dad don't live up to that "best" for themselves.

That applies to drug use and just about any other behavior that can be learned by example.

Ever cut off a driver, speed, drive while distracted, or let your temper get the best of you when the kids were in the car? They saw all of that, and they'll use those actions as examples for their own future as motorists, according to Felicity Erni, director of Pennsylvanians Against Underage Drinking and Students Against Destructive Decisions.

Erni was quoted for Monday's edition, in a story about teens being more likely to crash over the summer months.

"Parents really have a large influence on all of these things happening," Erni said. "From the time you switch from backward-facing car seats to forward-facing car seats, the kids are watching what the parents are doing while driving."

So when we're wondering how our children could be unsafe or aggressive drivers, we might better wonder what we did to give them the impression those types of actions were acceptable.

But while poor parental example is one reason for teens' unsafe driving, it's hardly the only one.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says some teens overestimate their own driving abilities. They're also inexperienced and can fail to instinctively react appropriately when faced with a difficult driving scenario.

And as Erni observes, kids are under less supervision over the summer months because they're home on summer break while their parents are at work.

So it's important to reinforce safe driving practices with them, she said, and supervise as much as possible.

In other words, watch them. Think of it as returning the favor.