Ford’s MyKey: Parental Controls for Teen Drivers

From the autoblog:

Ford announced today a new technology called MyKey that will be standard on the 2010 Focus Coupe and quickly spread to the rest of the Blue Oval’s lineup. MyKey can do three basic things: allow parents to limit a vehicle’s top speed to 80 mph and/or the stereo’s volume up to 44% of its max, and set a sustaining chime if the seatbelts aren’t being used. Clearly targeted towards worry wart parents, the MyKey system is meant to keep teens safe despite their protestation that a system like this curtails their kiddy freedoms. Ford did some polling and found that 67% of teens didn’t like the idea, though that number fell to 36% if the MyKey system led to parents letting the kids use the car more.

The product has engendered a surprising amount of debate — mostly criticism — in the comment sections of various blogs. Most of the comments (see here and here, for example) criticize the product for promoting invasive parenting, or say things like ‘there’s no way this will keep kids 100% safe.’ Yeah, well duh! No product is ever designed to produce 100% safety. That would be impossible, and it’s (therefore) a silly criticism.

As for the criticism that this kind of product permits/encourages invasive parenting, consider 2 points:
1) as “big brother” products go, this one is pretty mild. No actual surveillance (e.g., no electronic reporting back to Mom & Dad on Jr’s driving habits) and nothing covert — there’s no aspect of parental surveillance or control that is hidden from these young drivers. So it is totally unlike, e.g., computer software that covertly monitors & reports on kids’ web-surfing habits.
2) If invasive parenting is ever justified, monitoring and restricting teen driving habits has got to be pretty high on the “allowable” list, given the evidence about the quality of judgment exercised by young drivers, and the potential consequences — e.g., death to your kid and their friends. We’re not talking about preventing Jr from seeing naked people online, here. As “nanny” products go, this one seems an ethical winner.

What do you think?

2 comments so far

  1. Chris MacDonald on

    [This comment is from Laura Hartman, who gave me permission to post it here.]This is just one in a series of ways to monitor teen driving, and pretty tame, if you ask me (and I would be one of those meddlesome parents who anticipates monitoring, but who knows – mine are a few years away yet).Check out < HREF="" REL="nofollow">this story<> or < HREF="" REL="nofollow"><> for a program encouraging others to call if they notice teens with poor driving, and < HREF="" REL="nofollow">this story<> for a camera mounted on the mirror, with the latter sponsored by insurers: “Under Safeco’s Teensurance plan, parents are sent an e-mail or text message if their teen’s car, monitored by on-board GPS and notification technology called the Safety Beacon, exceeds pre-defined speed limits or strays too far from home or school.”And even a < HREF="" REL="nofollow">cell phone that monitors speed<>. Or < HREF="" REL="nofollow">gps<>.

  2. Randy Parker on

    It’s a little like the “morning after” pill isn’t? It really is possible to raise a kid to be a safe driver. But it takes years of teaching about responsibility, ethics, and respect, not to mention the relationship between action and consequence. Or,I guess you can just buy a monitor.

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