The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) announced that Dr. Gene Beresin, executive director of The Clay Center, has been named senior advisor on adolescent psychiatry for Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and their teen driving study in collaboration with Liberty Mutual Insurance.
"We're thrilled to welcome Dr. Beresin to our organization," said Dawn Teixeira, SADD’s president and CEO. "His passion for the community, coupled with his extensive knowledge of child psychiatry, makes him the ideal person for this role. Together, we will continue to work toward empowering teens and their families to make healthy decisions that will make the roads safer for all."
SADD is the nation's leading youth peer-to-peer education, prevention and activism organization dedicated to the health and safety of young people. SADD has for a long time partnered with Liberty Mutual Insurance on its Teen Driving Study, the most recent iteration of which focused on the impact of app usage.
To complement the more traditional, quantitative research, this year’s study incorporated implicit association testing (IAT), which has been used for the past 20 years to measure unconscious bias. For the first time ever, the study sought to capture not just what teens say, but also what they feel and believe in the moment. And, ultimately, this is what drives their behavior.
The research showed that while 95% of the teens surveyed acknowledged that the use of apps behind the wheel is dangerous, 68% admitted to still using them while driving. And, 80% noted on the IAT that navigation and music apps are “not distracting,” “important,” and “fun.” They also saw them as critical “utilities” that are a necessity while driving.
Talk with your teenagers. It’s always wise to engage in dialogues about road safety—even years before your kids get behind the wheel. Make sure these conversations don’t just touch upon what your kids think, but what they feel in the moment when it comes to certain situations.
Focus your conversation on what causes distractions. Sure, apps have use. But, can they be used in such a way that does not result in distraction? For example, could you program your navigation app to talk to you, or set up your music playlist ahead of time?
Keep the phone out of reach. 73% of teens in Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD’s study reported that their phones were close to them. See if instead your kids can hide their phones, or give them to a friend. Proximity is far too great a temptation!
Set limits and consequences. We know that teens respond to expectations and consequences. Take texting for example: while the survey showed that 27% of teens still text while driving, that number has dropped dramatically from previous years. This is probably due to the laws and fines concerning texting and driving that have been put in place. While there are not yet legal ramifications for app use, parents can establish their own consequences.
Use a contract. Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD have created a teen driving contract (hyperlink: https://www.libertymutual.com/auto/car-insurance-for-teens/teen-driving-contract) that serves as both a conversation-starter about safe driving habits, as well as a customizable agreement between parent(s) and child. Not only does it enable teens to take greater ownership over their safety, it holds them AND you mutually accountable for your behavior. The message for you as a parent or caregiver is this: Don’t just do what I say, do what I do!
In addition to being the executive director of The Clay Center, Beresin is a full professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (HMS), and senior educator in child and adolescent psychiatry at MGH. He received a B.A. in music from Princeton University and an M.A. in philosophy, along with his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He has more than 30 years of experience, and has won a number of local and national teaching awards, including the Parker J. Palmer "Courage to Teach" Award in 2002, given annually by the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education to 10 program directors from all medical specialties.
Beresin has consulted on a variety of television shows, including ER, Law and Order SVU and the Emmy Award-winning HBO children's specials Goodnight Moon and Other Sleepytime Tales (2000), Through a Child's Eyes: September 11, 2001 (2003) and Classical Baby (2005). He was also co-producer of a section of the Parent Resource Center for ABCNews.com. Beresin has published numerous papers and chapters on a variety of topics, including graduate medical education, mental health and media, eating disorders, personality disorders, and child and adolescent psychiatric treatments.
As senior advisor, Beresin will be leading a number of workshops on mental health and learning challenges. In addition to the workshops, Beresin will also be providing high-level input on the development and refinement of SADD's teen driving research, as well as promoting the study through articles and interviews.
You can learn more about Dr. Beresin and the work of the Clay Center here.