By Anna Cheshire Levitan, mother of Merritt Levitan and a member of the TextLess Live More Board of Directors.
Our students are the digital generation. For many, technology is always within hand’s reach, prompting young people to engage, respond, scroll, look up, browse and explore an unlimited universe of resources, connections and activities round-the-clock. A device is often the first thing young people reach for in the morning and the last thing they touch at night. Being “connected” to one another is society’s new norm. Young people carry technology into living rooms, classrooms, afterschool programs, gyms, theaters, coffee shops, restaurants, and cars. Some even wear technology. As teachers and leaders of the digital generation, we must understand the merits and opportunities technology provide, while weighing usage responsibly. We must teach and guide young people to be responsible users of technology – and to never “go digital” behind-the-wheel. The dangers of distracted driving are real and can be tragic.
On July 2, 2013, while on a cross country bike trip, 18-year-old Merritt Levitan, a recent high school graduate, was hit by a young driver who was texting behind-the-wheel. She sustained traumatic head injuries on impact and died the next day. Merritt’s last social media post proclaimed her excitement to be “off the grid” for a summer of leadership, adventure and biking. Her life, so precious and full of potential, ended because of four seconds of texting.
Merritt’s friends knew they had to do something to combat their generation’s digital distraction. In September 2013, they founded TextLess Live More, a student-led, peer-to-peer initiative with a dual mission to educate young people on the dangers of driving distracted and end distracted driving permanently to prevent tragic accidents and save lives.
Today TextLess Live More is presented in schools and afterschool programs around the country, led by engaged students, with a call-to-action for peers to take the TextLess Live More Pledge to never drive distracted or engage with digital technology while driving. The TextLess Live More Toolkit, a free downloadable resource, provides a step-by-step guide on how to get started with examples of dynamic and fun, student-led campaigns that work for an afterschool community.
In afterschool programs, young people can research and learn the TextLess Live More Stats and Facts around digital distracted driving to educate and encourage fellow students to take the TextLess Live More pledge to never drive distracted.
Afterschool students can hold a TextLess Live More Challenge event, such as a phone-free hour or period during after school, with the goal to be present and enjoy one another’s company in real time, to study, or to participate in other activities.
Afterschool students can also create a more permanent digital-free zone, or TextLess Live More Zone, where phones are turned off so young people can practice being present without being by the endless opportunities to log on and check out.
TextLess Live More empowers students and their peers to educate themselves and take action on a critical issue facing the digital generation. By texting less (or tech-ing less), students have the opportunity to engage in the world around them and live more – literally and figuratively. Students encourage one another to be present and to never, ever “go digital” behind-the-wheel.
Because four seconds is all it takes to lose someone you love.
Please visit textlesslivemore.org to learn more about how you can start TextLess Live More at your school or afterschool.
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