Phone-Focused Parents a Danger to Their Kids at Playground

Phone-Focused Parents a Danger to Their Kids at Playground

SATURDAY, April 25, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Young children are more likely to suffer playground injuries when their parents are texting or talking on a cell phone, a new study shows.

Even chatting with other caregivers ups the odds your kid will get hurt, the study found.

Researchers from the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York observed 50 parent/child pairs at seven playgrounds. The children were between 18 months and 5 years old. For 10 to 20 minutes, one researcher watched the parent while another researcher watched the child.

Parents were distracted 74 percent of the time, but most of the distractions were mild, with the majority of the parent’s attention focused on the child, they found.

Talking with other adults accounted for 33 percent of distractions, followed by cell phones and other electronic devices at 30 percent. Activities such as eating, drinking, reading and looking in a bag or purse accounted for the remaining 37 percent of distractions.

Nearly one-third of the children did risky things, such as walking up the slide, sliding head first, throwing sand, jumping off moving swings and pushing other children. Youngsters whose parents were distracted were much more likely to behave unsafely, the researchers said.

Three of five falls observed occurred while a caregiver was distracted, they said.

The study was to be presented Saturday at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in San Diego. Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

“Caregivers in general are doing a fine job supervising their children on the playground. However, increased awareness of limiting electronic distractions and other activities that may interfere with supervision should be considered,” study author Dr. Ruth Milanaik, director of Cohen’s neonatal neurodevelopmental follow-up program, said in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release.

The study’s co-author, Anna Krevskaya, a third-year fellow, said the study demonstrates that children regularly engage in risk-taking behaviors. “They are, however, more likely to do so when their caregivers are distracted,” she said in the news release.

Parents should also should talk to their kids about playground safety and etiquette before going to the playground, the researchers added.

Each year, more than 200,000 children aged 14 and younger are treated in U.S. emergency rooms for playground-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about child safety.