For More Parents, It’s Uber to the Rescue

  • Share
  • Read Later
Linda Davidson / The Washington Post / Getty Images

The other night, like a growing number of parents, I succumbed to the allure of Uber. Since then, I’ve felt — well, uber conflicted.

Having my 15-year-old son use the automobile-for-hire service, accessed via a Smartphone app, seemed like an absolute no-brainer. My husband and I had dropped off Nathaniel at a friend’s house, a solid half-hour drive away, after dinner on Friday. He needed to be picked up around midnight—or, he suggested, he could take Uber home with a couple of friends.

At the end of a long week of work, my husband and I were only too happy to say, “Sure, go ahead and Uber.”

Now available in dozens of cities across the country, Uber is catching on with parents who need to get their kids from place A to place B and can’t always manage it. In many cases, they aren’t simply looking for a little break, like we were. As families try to juggle their busy lives, having Uber—prized for its convenience, reliability and safety—can be a true godsend. The San Francisco-based company connects professional drivers of luxury-style black cars or SUVs with passengers, or provides a more affordable option, UberX, where private drivers use their own cars ot pick up riders.

We know families who use Uber when both parents are working and their kid has to get home from a late school event. Others tap it to make sure their son or daughter can get to a music lesson or a tutoring session (and seem all the more willing now that Uber has started offering services that are priced competitively with cab fares). No wonder that the New York Times ran an article in September headlined, “Mom’s Van Is Called Uber.”

But as wonderful as Uber is, I’m afraid that something important may be getting lost along the way—especially when teens are allowed to use it late at night, shuttling to and from parties or hanging out with friends.

Let me be clear: Parents don’t lose total control with Uber. One of the virtues of the service is that minors can’t sign up for it; they have to be on their mom or dad’s account. And every time they order up a car, the account holder is instantly alerted with a text and can track the entire trip, from pickup to drop-off. If you’re a kid, Uber isn’t great for sneaking around.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if parents are missing out every time they rely on Uber instead of making that late-night, post-party drive themselves. This isn’t merely a matter of getting to look into your child’s eyes or smell his breath—though that can be useful for figuring out if he has been doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing. When your kid knows you’re the one picking him up, he may well moderate his behavior to avoid the third degree on the way home. What’s more, if you have a son or daughter who is looking for an excuse not to drink or smoke, doing the pickup yourself can provide a graceful way for him or her to beg off.

Above all, though, using Uber takes away the chance to really listen to your children at a time when, experience tells me, they tend to let their guard down a bit. Cruising down the 101 Freeway, at 12:30 or 1 in the morning, my husband and I have each had some amazing conversations with Nathaniel and, before him, his big sister, now 21. Sometimes, it’s just catching up on the latest gossip from their circle. Other times, the drive home turns into a deep discussion on drugs or sex, on the true meaning of friendship, on the nature of adolescent hopes and fears. Taking advantage of these opportunities to shape their values—that is, to parent—is particularly crucial when your kids are 14 to 16, on the cusp of independence but still open to your influence.

The car, more than any other place I know, is like a magic bubble in which kids confide in their parents. And it seems I’m not alone in believing this. A paper from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater found that it’s an environment in which they tend to feel safe opening up about “sensitive subjects.” That’s because, the researchers write, the “teens are able to look straight forward and feel less awkward, as opposed to a face-to-face interaction across . . . a kitchen table.”

I have little doubt that we will allow Nathaniel to use Uber again from time to time. After all, it often feels like my entire life revolves around where he needs to be: school, basketball practice, an orthodontist appointment, a friend’s house, the mall, a movie. Not a day goes by without him asking his dad or me or for a ride somewhere.

But I also feel that Uber could easily become a crutch. Some of my most cherished moments as a parent have come while wearing my chauffer’s hat, and I don’t want to give those up.

15 comments
ChuckCotton
ChuckCotton

The parents are not aware UBER operates as an illegal company as all ground surface transportation is regulated and they do not register but disobey our laws. he parent's children are NOT protected if there were an accident, injury, or death. UBER claims it carries a million dollar "supplemental" type policy. There is no such thing in a regulated industry that transports the public for hire. The only type policy is a Public Auto Liability" policy and you have to have all type of permits and licenses with full compliance which UBER does not.  BEWARE

MariaJones
MariaJones


Get $10 off your first ride! with UBER!!


use sign up link: www.uber.com/invite/ubernew10o...


or enter PROMO CODE:

ubernew10off

RebeccaPeaslee
RebeccaPeaslee

UberX is great and I've had my young teens use it multiple times. It's cheaper than a cab which is a plus. It's really great in a crunch and I never have to worry about my kids getting stuck somewhere. I highly recommended that everyone download the Uber app on their kid's phone...it only takes a minute and could potentially be really helpful sometime in the near future. Oh and you can use this code to get $20 off your first ride when you download the app: UBERUSC12 Enjoy!

Hacker
Hacker

Uberx operates illegally in most jursidictions.  Most localilties have rules and regulations regarding how taxis may operate. They include regs about licensing and background checks, the age and condition of vehicles, insurance requirements, a rate structure, and driver behavior (such as not refusing people based on destination, skin color, the way they are dressed, etc.). Those licensed cabbies have some degree of accountability and oversight.

Uberx blatantly disregards the local rules and provides taxi service that flouts any local oversight. These drivers are operating illegally in most cases.

I wouldn't put my kids in one of these. Sorry.

RickGoondall
RickGoondall

@ Aboutabeer- I agree, most of article is unnecessary ADVERTISEMENT.

If parent are just tired and or lazy they can order a taxi/ car service using any service either traditionally by dialing for a cab or mobile app (HAILO, LYFT, SIDEKICK) HOWEVER- do these 3rd party insure the rider? As DaveSutton points out.

I  agree with DaveSutton, about UBER being Uninsured- since Uber is not the owner/ nor the operator of the vehicle, and they clearly relieve themselves from such liability ----raises more questions as to whether parents should take such risks for their children.

harleygirl
harleygirl

Carpooling for kids - how inventive - and safer for all of us! I hadn't heard of this service before but for parents experiencing "tiring-day tiredness" - of which I'm sure there are millions in today's hyper work environment - having a support system of this nature can only help. They can get the rest they need, or make better use of their time, instead of driving bleary-eyed as much as they often do, and they can feel reassured knowing their teens are in good hands, especially late at night, in hard-core high-speed, urban environments.

DaveSutton
DaveSutton

Using Uber may cause something else to get lost: insurance coverage.

California regulators have questioned whether an Uber driver’s commercial insurance will actually provide coverage while he’s driving for Uber.

Upon downloading Uber’s app, passengers agree to hold Uber harmless for anything that happens on the ride.

Since no official has ever reviewed the terms of Uber’s insurance policy, it’s reasonable to assume Uber can pick and choose which accidents it will cover.

All this leaves Uber passengers potentially completely uncovered in case of an auto accident.

aboutabeer
aboutabeer

With no disrespect, I think the point the author makes is moot in this case.

No one is forcing anyone to use the service, it is entirely up to the discretion of the parent if they wish to use it, so to breast-beat about it is rather awkward. The only thing preventing the author from driving her son home back is her own long, tiring-day tired-ness. 

I do think however that the point about children coming home in an extra inebriated state stands, but the rest of the article is just unnecessary.

blahblahblahha
blahblahblahha

a side of the story i haven't heard before! thanks, randye. great piece

deannafuller
deannafuller

I couldn't agree more.  Thank you for another stellar article.  You are always so on topic and insightful.

MariaJones
MariaJones

@harleygirl Try UBER , it is an awesome car service... always reliable and super clean

cars. Its a great service at a great price. I have used it many times
and I LOVE it!! It is fast and reasonably priced.

P.S.

Get $10 off your first ride!

use sign up link: www.uber.com/invite/ubernew10off

or enter PROMO CODE:
ubernew10off

MariaJones
MariaJones

@DaveSutton Uber provides $1 million in supplemental insurance for all its drivers.


Try UBER , it is an awesome car service... always reliable and super clean
cars. Its a great service at a great price. I have used it many times
and I LOVE it!! It is fast and reasonably priced.

P.S.

Get $10 off your first ride!

use sign up link: www.uber.com/invite/ubernew10off

or enter PROMO CODE:
ubernew10off