Despite a steady decline in child injuries since the 1970s—due to increased safety measures like gates and childproofing—there has been a sudden spike that experts are attributing to parents and caregivers who are distracted by typing on their smartphones.
Between 2007 and 2010, nonfatal injuries of children under the age of five rose 12%, based on emergency room records. In that same time period, the number of Americans who own a smartphone leapt from 9 million in 2007 to 63 million in 2010. While no formal studies have been conducted, doctors and child-safety experts believe that there is definitely an association between the two statistics, and insist that it is impossible to give young children the attention they need while distracted by a smartphone.
And there has been a significant rise in injuries in places where young children need to be watched carefully and where parents might be tempted to check their social media accounts, surf the web, or text with friends. For example, there was a 17% jump in injuries involving playground equipment.
Authorities are now reviewing a caregiver's social networking and texting activity when a child has been injured, or in some cases killed, to look for signs of neglect and pressing charges accordingly. One woman was charged with reckless endangerment in the second degree and risk of injury to a minor after the toddler she was babysitting nearly drowned in a hotel pool while she was texting. She told police that she had only looked down for about 20 seconds before she realized that the boy had sunk to the bottom of the pool. After reviewing hotel security tapes, officers noted that the woman had been completely consumed by her phone for three minutes while the boy was first flailing, and then sinking.
Another woman's 2-year-old son accidentally drowned in a swimming pool with the Florida Department of Children and Families concluding that his death was "a direct result" of inadequate supervision. The mother had been tweeting about a tortoise in her backyard for five minutes while the child was dying.
Anybody who has dealt with a toddler knows that caring for one is not that different from working an intense suicide watch. They almost seem hellbent on injuring themselves as they explore the world around them. While sitting on a park bench can be super boring, checking in to Facebook to read a friends status update about how excited they are that it's almost the weekend just doesn't seem worth an emergency room trip.
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