Uber for Kids: A New Trend Emerges
Parents in big cities like New York have relied on taxis, buses, and the subway system for years. But I’m hearing more and more about moms and dads sending their kids to school—and other places—through services like Lyft and Uber. The convenience can’t be beat, but is using Uber for kids safe? Before your kiddos become "Uber Kids," check out these pros, cons, safety tips, and alternatives first.
Pros and Cons of Using Uber for Kids
The "pros" of using Uber to transport kids include:
- Convenience - All you have to do is click on the app to order the car service. It tells you immediately how quickly the driver will arrive, and payments are made through the app—so your child doesn't have to carry cash.
- Cost - Services like Uber and Lyft can be less expensive than other car services.
- Background checks - It's definitely a plus that Uber drivers must submit to background checks performed by the company. However, they don't reveal much information about them, and parents using Uber don't know how thorough those background checks are.
The "cons" of using Uber for kids include:
- Safety risks - As a single parent raising your kids solo, you have to trust others with your children quite often. But you have to be careful about who you choose to trust. When it comes to Uber, you have absolutely no relationship to the driver and, really, no reason to trust him or her. While background checks are performed, they may provide more of a false sense of security than actual reassurance of your child's safety. With no other adult in the car, child passengers are vulnerable to the motivations of the driver, who—given an opportunity to do harm—may care little about losing his or her job. Even putting aside predatory concerns, the driver has no training in child development or first aid and may not be prepared to care for your child en route.
- Unexpected price hikes - In certain situations, Uber will raise their prices unexpectedly (based on demand). Some riders have complained that they were not aware of this until the end of the ride, when the receipt arrived via email.
- Missed opportunity to tap other resources - As a single parent, you need to create a support network for yourself and your kids. This might include family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Relying on Uber to transport your kids means not calling on these other individuals—who might have wanted very much to help you. (Sometimes the first step in building the community you need is asking for help. It may be outside your comfort zone, but it can be an important first step in building lasting, mutual friendships.)
If you do decide to use Uber for kids, stick with these safety tips:
- Use the buddy system - Send your children together or with others.
- Keep a cell phone handy - Make sure your kids have a well-charged cell phone on them.
- Enable location tracking - Install an app on your kids' phones that allows you to track their location.
- Teach awareness - Talk with your kids about warning signs that could indicate a problem mid-transport, such as taking an unfamiliar route.
- Role play what to do in an emergency - Practice responding to various emergency situations, including how to call 9-1-1 and what information to share with the dispatcher.
If you decide that Uber's not right for you kids, try these Uber-alternatives:
- Carpool with other families
- Hire a driving nanny
- Look for options geared toward busy families, like Shuddle