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Is our High Tech Age Reducing our Ability to be Good Caregivers?

Accidents involving texting while parenting

The Center for Disease Control reported that nonfatal injuries to children under 5 years of age rose 12% between 2007 and 2010, after declining for much of the prior decade. This is despite the fact that U.S. birth rates fell for the fourth year in a row.

It is well known that using a hand held electronic device while driving or walking increases the risk of an accident. A number of emergency room doctors, pediatricians, academic researchers and police officers feel that these factors could be responsible for the rise in child injuries. 

In CT a woman was watching her friend’s two-year-old son at the swimming pool at Foxwoods Casino and Resort while she was texting on her smart phone. The child sat down on the steps, slipped into the pool and began sinking. Based on security camera footage it was reported that the boy flailed for about a minute before sinking into the deep end of the pool. After about three minutes the woman put her phone down, noticed the boy underwater and jumped in to pull him out of the pool after which time a pool attendant resuscitated the child who recovered fully.

The CT State Police charged the woman with reckless endangerment in the second degree and risk of injury to a minor.

The number of people in this country who own a smart phone has ballooned from 9 million in 2007 to 63 million in 2010 to 114 million in July of 2012. Child safety experts indicate that there appears to be no statistics or studies to establish a link between childhood injury and distracted parenting. However, as some would point out, there appears to be an association.

Child safety experts point to the declining child accident rates that resulted from safer toys, playgrounds, fencing and other safety features but are concerned about the recent increase in child injury rates.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission’s statistics indicate that children are experiencing more injuries during activities and at ages that require closer supervision. For example, injuries involving playground equipment for children under 5 years old increased 17% between 2007 and 2010.

Unfortunately, the data that could be used to establish the dangers of distracted parenting are often not available. Oftentimes, an emergency room doctor attending to a child with a broken bone will not ask the parent what they were doing at the time their child was injured. Further, parents do not self-report their being distracted as a cause of their child’s accident. Research shows that many parents do not consider themselves “distracted” when they are checking e-mails as opposed to reading or watching TV.

A Pear Center Research Center study found that almost one quarter of adults who send text messages reported being so distracted by their hand held devices that they have bumped into another person or object. Lastly, studies have shown that children are more likely to engage in riskier behavior when they are not watched carefully.

These statistics should give us all a reason to stop and think about how many distractions we allow into our lives and how many of them cause conditions that can be very injurious to ourselves, our children and others. It is hard to conceive of a situation that would necessitate the use of a smart phone, while we are parenting our children, especially when they are engaged in activities that might cause them great harm if they are not properly supervised. Do not become one of the very sad statistics that result from a child accident due to distracted parenting.

Richard P. Hastings is a Connecticut personal injury lawyer at Hastings, Cohan & Walsh, LLP, with offices throughout the state. He has been named a New England Super Lawyer and is the author of the books: "The Crash Course on Child Injury Claims"; "The Crash Course on Personal Injury Claims in Connecticut" and "The Crash Course on Motorcycle Accidents." He has also co-authored the best selling book "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing- What Your Insurance Company Doesn't Want You to Know and Won't Tell You Until It's Too Late!" He can be reached at 1(888)CTLAW-00 or by visiting www.hcwlaw.com.

Carol Hudak October 27, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Excellent, Richard, and serious food for thought . . . Ironic that an ad for a free phone with free shipping appears under your thoughtful essay. (I guess that's the technological version of sending 'free' credit cards to teenagers and bad credit risks.)

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