TODAY   |  September 13, 2010

Do parental lessons ever really stick with kids?

Dateline’s Kate Snow captures teens on camera making bad decisions about getting into a car with drunk and distracted drivers. Why do they do this, despite lesson after lesson about driving safety?

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

CARL QUINTANILLA, co-host: Back at 7:46. You can't be with your kids all of the time, so as parents you try to give them the skills to look out for themselves. But do those lessons really stick when you're not watching? NBC 's Kate Snow is here with an eye-opening "Dateline" report. Kate , good morning.

KATE SNOW reporting: Good morning to you.

QUINTANILLA: This is fascinating -- this is every parent would love to have this.

SNOW: Yeah.

QUINTANILLA: Being able to watch your kids and see if they could make the judgments you've tried to instill in them.

SNOW: Exactly.

QUINTANILLA: How did it work?

SNOW: When you're not around.


SNOW: And when you're just watching them. In this case, on hidden cameras . What we wanted to do is really see whether those lessons are sticking and challenge them in certain areas. We looked at from everything from bullying, what happens when they see bullying happen. We looked at stranger danger, what happens when somebody comes to the front door and a number of other topics, all hoping to start a conversation between parents and their kids.

QUINTANILLA: Tell me about this first clip because these are teens who are driving and they're not necessarily paying attention to the road, right?

SNOW: Right. We partnered with a company called DriveCam . They put cars -- cameras in cars of novice drivers for the first year that they're out there. The kids know the cameras are there, but look what happens anyway.

SNOW: This teen is putting on lipstick. This one is changing tracks on an iPod . This one is chatting on the cell.

Unidentified Teen #1: Oh....

SNOW: Teens so dangerously distracted they've lost focus.

Unidentified Teen #2:

QUINTANILLA: We should mention...

SNOW: Yeah.

QUINTANILLA: one in those videos were hurt.

SNOW: Luckily.

QUINTANILLA: But that's pretty astounding footage of what they're doing when they're alone. And you think -- you talked to some of these younger people.

SNOW: Right.

QUINTANILLA: And their lesson was, hey, we're watching you guys as parents do it, too.

SNOW: This is the take-away. They all say it's you. It's your -- it's the parents that are -- hello, myself included, that occasionally at a stop light, we're checking our phones, we're checking our BlackBerrys . We sat with a group of four to seven-year-olds, Carl , and talked to them about their parents ' use of technology. You wouldn't believe, not just the safety issues, they talked about their parents texting and driving, but also the emotional impact that it has on kids when we're always on our phones and always texting, we get into that tonight, too.

QUINTANILLA: In -- set up this next clip, which involves the decision whether or not you get in a car with someone who appears to have been drinking.

SNOW: Right. And we all teach our teenagers don't ever get in a car. Call me if somebody's -- if you think they've been drinking. So reality TV show we set up, a fake reality TV show , invited people to a casting call. When the parents and the kids got there, we told the parents , no, we're actually " Dateline NBC ," but we'd like to watch your teenagers and see what they do when an actor they think has been drinking is handed the car keys.

Unidentified Teen #3: What? You're drinking alcohol ?

Unidentified Teen #4: Whatever. It's my birthday.

SNOW: We tell them it's time to drive over to a studio for a taping and we throw the keys to the actor who appears to have been drinking.

Unidentified Woman #1: Hi. You get to drive.

Unidentified Teen #5: What?

Teen #3: Oh, my God, you're actually driving?

SNOW: Their moms are watching on a monitor to see what they'll do. They head to the parking lot and everybody hops in. Brielle even makes a stunning comment about a recent death at her school caused by a drunk driver .

BRIELLE: Stop. My friend just passed away from drinking and driving .

SNOW: We let them drive off, but not far. They pull back around to be greeted by our cameras and their disappointed parents .

Unidentified Woman #2: Did you know he was drinking?

Teen #3: Yeah.

Teen #5: Yeah.

Woman #2: He told you? And did you think it was smart to get in the car with him?

Teen #3: No.

Teen #5: No.

Woman #2: So why did you?

QUINTANILLA: That's the thing. These kids know what they did was wrong.

SNOW: Yeah.

QUINTANILLA: You say to protect them, give them the chance to save face with their friends, right?

SNOW: Exactly. Yeah. There's a couple of things that we learned from this. We work with experts throughout all of these scenarios, but one of the things is be severe about this. Tell them the consequences are serious and give them -- tell them what the punishment will be if they get in a car with a drunk driver . Not only is it punishment, Carl , but they can use that to save face. They can say, 'I can't get into this car with you because my mom will take away my driver's license.'

QUINTANILLA: Right, right.

SNOW: For example. That gives them an out. Also maybe give them a text message that they can send you as simple as 111 means, 'Mom, come get me now.' So that they don't have to say anything out loud in front of their friends.

QUINTANILLA: And watch the show together tonight, perhaps.

SNOW: We hope they'll watch together tonight, yeah.

QUINTANILLA: You can, of course, watch Kate 's full report tonight on "Dateline" at 10, 9 Central right here on NBC . Kate , thanks.