In “The Perils of Texting While Parenting”, a chilling article in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, experts associated a recent rise in infant and toddler injuries with parents and caregivers distracted by mobile devices when they are with young children. The article, found here, cites tale after tale of young children suffering injuries (and even a fatality) while the parent or caregiver was nearby but preoccupied with their smartphones.
Certainly we all know that it is all too easy to multitask while spending time with our children. You can push a stroller while sending a text or finishing up a work call. But we’ve all had those moments of being completely absorbed in whatever we were reading or saying and feeling the tug of a small hand on our leg or suddenly realizing that the faint buzz you’ve been ignoring is actually the insistent call of your little one. We know that this is not a good practice, but we rationalize that we are only taking our eyes off the little ones for a few seconds to check our phones.
But according to the Wall Street Journal article, parents can and do underestimate the amount of time they are preoccupied with their devices. This was evidenced in an incident in 2011 when a young woman, who was watching a friend’s young son play around a pool, got a text from a friend. When she accidentally dropped the phone while responding to the text, she looked up to find that the toddler had fallen into the pool. Fortunately he was quickly pulled out and although he required resuscitation, he recovered fully. The woman told the emergency medical technician that she had taken her eyes off the boy “for about 20 seconds”. Security video footage of the incident showed that the woman did not look at the child for more than three minutes.
I spend a lot of time walking around NYC and regularly see parents or sitters texting or talking on the phone while pushing a stroller. Gone are the days when adults would engage the babies in chatter during walks. (Thank goodness my children were all older when the smartphones came along, as I’m sure I’d have joined the texting and talking parent crew, ignoring my common sense telling that this was not the right thing to do.) OK, so we’ve always known focusing on your phone around little ones is not a great thing to do, but now we know it could be a very dangerous thing to do. Parents need to put those phones away when hanging out with little ones, and make sure the sitters do as well! Any helpful suggestions for breaking the smartphone habit?