What is cyber hitchhiking, and how can I tell if my teen is doing it?
Your Online Life
A series of news reports this summer focused on “cyber hitchhiking” in reference to the way kids use technology to solicit rides from others by posting a request to friends and followers on their Twitter or Facebook network.
Calling on a social network for a quick lift to the mall may not exactly mirror the act of thumbing a ride, but being cautious is important. Since the average teen has 425 friends on Facebook, there’s a good chance they don’t want everyone to know exactly where they are going.
Don’t panic. In most cases, tweens and teens are connecting directly with those in their social network checking in regularly on their page. Putting up a general post online or sending out a tweet on Twitter offers teens an opportunity to ask the group and let someone volunteer transportation.
Talk to your kids. Remind kids that putting a ride request on their Twitter or Facebook feed also posts their whereabouts and plans, information they may not want all 400-plus of their social connections to know. A private message to a few close friends is a better option, and final arrangements for rides should be made over the phone.
Consider who they can call for a ride. Reinforce other transportation options and encourage teens to ask parents, close friends, and relatives first. When taking a ride from a friend, require teens to keep you in the loop as far as whose car they are riding in and who will be driving, especially when the ride comes from a friend you don’t know well.
When your teen is the driver. If you child is the one getting requests for a ride, make sure he or she is legally allowed to transport other teens. (Graduated licenses in Tennessee restrict new drivers from carrying passengers.)
Be in the know. There are official ridesharing sites online. These sites post offers from people willing to share a ride to a destination and are looking for travel options. Sites like Ridester.com and eRideShare.com allow users to create anonymous profiles, and post offers or needs for rides locally and long distance. Craigslist also has a rideshare section in its classified listing. All of these sites are designed for adults; kids should never agree to give or take a ride from a stranger.