Increasing Child Injury Rates May Point To Distracted Parents

Cell phone-related distractions are attracting a lot of attention in the context of distracted driving and walking. Now experts say that device distractions might be driving an increase in another category of personal injuries. Although the rate of nonfatal injuries to small children in the United States has consistently declined since the 1970s, that trend reversed in the last five years. Between 2007 and 2010, children under the age of five received 12 percent more injuries.

While observers cannot point to a study showing a causal relationship between phone-related distractions and the risk of personal injuries to children, the new trend does coincide with the proliferation of smartphones. This leads some experts to suspect that parental distractions are contributing to the increased volume of injuries.

Five years ago, in mid-2007, only 9 million Americans over age 13 owned a smartphone. The first iPhone model released that year and by 2010, 63 million people were using smartphones. Less than two years later, an estimated 114 million Americans owned smartphones in July 2012.

This large increase in smartphone use correlates with a dramatic break with the long-term trend of fewer child injuries. The data could indicate that parents of small children find themselves distracted by a smartphone and miss critical opportunities to prevent children from encountering various hazards. While a small child’s home can be dangerous enough, distractions can also occur anywhere a parent takes a child. For example, a distracted parent might neglect to keep a child away from a fragile glass object while shopping.

Parents have an obligation to keep children out of harm’s way. If phone-related distractions get in the way of appropriate supervision, parents should consider putting devices away to focus on child safety.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “The Perils of Texting While Parenting,” Ben Worthen, Sept. 29, 2012