Study Proves Cell Phones Aren't The Biggest Distractions At Parks, So Can We Back Off Now?

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 

We all know what happens (especially as a mom) if you appear to be following your child around a playground too closely. You’re not-so-lovingly referred to as a “helicopter parent” and the masses question why you can’t just back off? But on the other hand, try using your cellphone while your little snowflake is climbing on the jungle gym: the masses are now questioning why you can’t be in the moment with your child and/or why you aren’t constantly making sure your child is safe.

You can’t win. This has been proven once again this week, with a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics that concluded, “Cell phones take parents’ attention away from kids on playgrounds.

Researchers observed 50 caregiver/child pairs and recorded 371 two-minute episodes. The study concluded that caregivers were distracted during 74% of these episodes, but “most of the distractions, however, were considered mild, with the majority of the adult’s attention focused on the child.” It also concluded that cell phones were not the biggest distraction: talking to other adults was. But since everyone would laugh at a study called “Talking with other adults takes parents’ attention away from kids on playgrounds,” they decided to go for the electronics-shaming angle instead.

Cell phones take parents’ attention away from kids on playgrounds? Yeah, no kidding. That’s kind of the point, right? I take my kids to the park so they’ll get out of my hair for five minutes and play amongst themselves. We have no problem with the idea of parents socializing with other parents, having a snack, looking at a magazine, or staring into thin air. Why is there always this weird hang-up with them looking at cell phones?

“This study demonstrates that children regularly engage in risk-taking behaviors regardless of the distraction level of their caregivers. They are, however, more likely to do so when their caregivers are distracted,” said study author Anna Krevskaya. But we kind of want our children to engage in risk-taking behaviors, don’t we? I love seeing the the triumphant look on my kid’s face when he walks up the slide. I love seeing the look of glee in his eyes when he slides down face-first. Even if I never took my eyes off him, I wouldn’t stop this “risky” behavior.

“Researchers observed five falls, three of which occurred while a caregiver was distracted. None of the children was seriously injured.” Big whoop. The study should actually be called, “Your kid is going to engage in risky behavior whether you follow him around the park or not.” Do you really want to be that parent yelling Don’t do that! Be careful! all day?

There’s inevitably going to be someone who thinks you’re failing, so you may as well get some work done at the park. Or catch up on Facebook. Or absentmindedly scroll through photos. And unless you’re The Flash, if you happen to detect an impending accident, you’re probably not going to make it to your child’s side fast enough to do anything about it anyway.

You’re not a superhero — you’re a parent. Just do your best, which may totally involve catching up with your emails at the park.

Related post: Dear Mom Judging Me For My iPhone

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