Distracted Parents Putting Kids at Risk: Are Cell Phones to Blame?

by Emma Waverman
Originally Published: 

A little envious of their cell phones, that is. While I do miss those long, leisurely days on the playground, I do not miss the boredom of many hours in the sun in my pre-smartphone days. I know if that was me, I would be head down on my phone, just like the many parents I see at the park.

The proliferation of people on their phones at the playground is hard to miss. So it comes as no surprise that recent studies have examined the link between cellphones and playground injuries. According to the research, presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) meeting, cell phones are a distraction for caregivers and parents on the playground, and kids are more likely to suffer injuries while their parents or caregivers text and scroll.

Or at least that is what the headlines tell you.

Buried in the research was a little nugget—cell phones were not the biggest distraction. The biggest distraction was having a conversation with another adult. Cell phones accounted for 30 percent of all distractions, but talking with other adults was at fault 33 percent of the time, and the remaining 37 percent of diversions included eating, drinking, reading and other activities. The research found that kids whose caregivers weren’t looking at them were more likely to perform dangerous activities—like running up the slide or throwing sand—and were also more likely to fall.

To me that means kids will be kids and adults will be adults. Kids like to have fun and push against the boundaries; adults like to chat and not be bored beyond reason.

It could make your head hurt trying to make sense of all the conflicting advice out there. You should let your children have their freedom, encourage them to take risks and then fail. You should also watch them like a hawk and not let them get hurt. The right answer has to fall somewhere in the middle.

So, just as park season starts, I hope that parents see this study and take it with a grain of salt. It’s not OK to completely ignore your child, but it is OK to check your phone, have a chat and drink your coffee. Everything in moderation.

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