On a recent vacation with two other families, we parents decided we deserved a night out. But our teens felt they did, too, so we sent them on their merry way in a Lyft. We’re not unique in this; it’s an oh-so-tempting option, especially for working parents unable to shuttle teens to every rehearsal and sports practice. But is it a good idea?
Let’s start with the basics: It’s against company rules for Uber or Lyft drivers to pick up minors. Yet drivers often do anyway, meaning parents may think of ridesharing services as a viable answer to teen transportation dilemmas.
If parents do want to allow ride-sharing services, the main issue to consider is safety, says Phyllis Fagell, a licensed clinical professional counselor at Sheridan Middle School in Washington, D.C., and the author of the forthcoming book Middle School Matters.
And with a recent CNN investigation reporting more than 100 incidents of sexual assault by Uber and Lyft drivers over the last four years, safety considerations are no small matter.
As with any independent travel by teens, set some ground rules, says Fagell. She was proud of her kids, ages 16 and 14, who opted to cancel a rideshare because the car didn’t have a license plate.
“Tell your teens that when something doesn’t feel right, they should always go with their gut, even if it feels impolite,” Fagell says.
Teens should also know how to remain alert and assertive, as they would when traveling anywhere without an adult—whether that’s in a traditional taxicab, in a rideshare, on foot, or on public transportation.
Parents ultimately make the call whether to allow teens to take rideshares. But Fagell does recommend that, at a minimum, parents require teens to ride with at least one other passenger. “There’s always something to be said for traveling in groups,” she says.