Is Texting While Parenting Behind Recent Spike in Childhood Accidents?

Health & Wellness on 10.02.12
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The fear of sexting teens may be overblown, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be critical of cell phone technology and the role it plays in our lives.

The fact is, it can be very dangerous. 

We know that talking or texting while driving can kill you (or your kids), and there's been some talk of how our unhealthy tech habits may be detremental to our kids. Now the Wall Street Journal has a fascinating piece on how simply texting while parenting can lead to trouble, too. In fact, some people are pointing to handheld communication devices as a possible contributing factor behind a rise in recent non-fatal injuries in young children:

Nonfatal injuries to children under age five rose 12% between 2007 and 2010, after falling for much of the prior decade, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on emergency-room records. The number of Americans 13 and older who own a smartphone such as an iPhone or BlackBerry has grown from almost 9 million in mid-2007, when Apple introduced its device, to 63 million at the end of 2010 and 114 million in July 2012, according to research firm comScore.

There is, of course, always a danger in assuming that correlation equals causation. But anecdotal evidence would certainly suggest that regular, persistent distractions like cell phones and computers can lead to dangerous situations. The WSJ, for example, cites a parent who was texting in a park while watching his 18-month-old son, only to find him wondering off in front of a policeman who was busy breaking up a domestic pursuit. The article also quotes emergency room doctors who believe texting is a contributing factor in many of the injuries they see - including deaths and near drownings. In my own parenting adventures, I've found myself distracted by a text or an email, and then consequently shocked to see just how fast my 10-month-old can move while I am not watching. 

Distractions are, of course, nothing new. We've seen how hot car deaths can happen as a result of sleep deprivation or absent mindedness - whether or not a cell phone plays a contributing role. But it would seem logical to assume that the constant pressure to be online and available, and to multitask even while we are parenting, will have negative consequences for our ability to pay attention to our kids. And when we don't pay attention to our kids - especially young ones - a lot of unexpected things can occur.

Proceed with caution.

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