The Wall Street Journal published an interesting story that tries to blame parents using smartphones for the rise of non-fatal injuries with children.
Data yanked from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which gathered its evidence from emergency room records, claims that nonfatal injuries to children under age five rose 12-percent between 2007 and 2010. Additional data offered by comScore reports that the number of American, smartphone-owning consumers age 13 and older has grown from 9 million in mid-2007 to 63 million in 4Q10, to 114 million in July 2012.
Prior to the smartphone epidemic, child-based injury rates had steadily declined since the 1970s thanks to safer playgrounds to baby gates to plugging plastic caps into electrical sockets. But the sudden rise of injuries and the sudden rise in smartphone ownership seemingly point to distracted parents who are now spending too much time texting, playing mobile games, and streaming dancing cats from YouTube.
The Wall Street Journal's report, seemingly intent on painting a negative light, opens with a scene describing a father and his 18-month-old son in a San Francisco park. The dad is texting his wife, not paying attention to the toddler walking towards a policeman who at the time is breaking up a dispute. The child "almost got trampled over," yet dad whipped out his phone again just minutes after the incident is over. Yes, he's a hypocrite, the dad admits, we all are.
For parents who actually own a smartphone, this paints a nasty picture about their capabilities of raising children. They appear irresponsible, distracted. Even more, emergency room doctors are supposedly worried, that they see "the growing use of hand-held electronic devices as a plausible explanation for the surprising reversal of a long slide in injury rates for young children."
There's even mention of "extreme cases" that resulted in death and near drowning.
But guess what: there's no proof linking smartphones to the rise of child injuries, and the Wall Street Journal even admits it. "What you have is an association," the paper quoted Dr. Gary Smith, founder and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "Being able to prove causality is the issue.... It certainly is a question that begs to be asked."
On the opposite side of the coin, the paper quotes Dr. Wally Ghurabi, medical director of the emergency center at the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital. His chopped quote indicates that doctors tie child injuries to smartphones the same way texting while driving or walking down a sidewalk has proven to be highly dangerous. Like driving while texting, parents think they're multitasking and don't feel truly distracted, he said, but in essence they are totally focused on the screen and not what the child is doing.
Valid arguments can be made on both sides of the phone – you can't disagree. In the case of the dad with his toddler son in the park, he could have been watching a female jogger, reading a book or magazine, or tying his shoes, and the child still would have wandered off – the smartphone just happened to be the source of his distraction.
Point is, the rise of toddler injuries and smartphone use may be just a coincidence, or mobile gadgets could be a part of the problem. Maybe parents are now more prone to take their kids to the emergency room rather than stitching wounds themselves and telling their kids to walk it off. Or perhaps parents are so distracted by mobile media that some children are indeed at risk.
To keep the negative, neglectful tone, the article concludes with Kayla Cory, co-owner of Wonderwild, an indoor play area in Houston. She claims parents bring their kids and then turn their backs to use their phones. She says she will get up and ask parents to pay attention to their kids.
To read the full report, head here.