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London - Children are having more accidents because their parents are too busy checking their cellphones to supervise them properly, researchers warn.
They blame a sharp rise in playground falls and mishaps in the home on their mothers or fathers being distracted by text messages and emails.
The number of children being admitted to hospital having fallen from playground equipment has risen by a third in the last five years, according to NHS data.
Parenting experts and doctors specialising in emergency departments believe the rise is partly fuelled by the growing use of smartphones and BlackBerries.
They also point out children are more inclined to take risks or misbehave when they know their parents’ attention is diverted.
Figures from the NHS show that last year some 9,564 children were admitted to hospital having fallen from playground equipment, up from 7,232 in 2006/7.
Researchers point out that this rise coincided with the increasing availability of BlackBerrys and smartphones, such as Apple’s iPhone, which went on the market five years ago.
June O’Sullivan, chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation, which runs nurseries in the capital said: “We are all guilty of being distracted by our phones. As a society, we need to start setting parameters about when it is and is not appropriate to use them.
“It is a balancing act. But parents need to be aware when their phones are having too much power over their lives and try to put them away when they are spending time with their children.
“Children crave attention and if they are not getting it from their moms and dads, they will sometimes do dangerous things to grab it.”
Dr Wally Ghurabi, medical director of the emergency department at the University of California Los Angeles medical centre, said: “It’s very well understood within the emergency-medicine community that utilising devices - hand-held devices - while you are assigned to watch your kid... that resulting injuries could very well be because you are utilising those tools.”
Professor David Schwebel, an expert in psychology at the University of Alabama, said: “Young children have a natural risk to hurt themselves if they are not properly watched by an adult.
“If the adult is distracted, clearly the risk is increased. We know that drivers and pedestrians are distracted and more at risk when they use devices. It’s a fairly small leap to suggest that supervisors are distracted.”
Sheila Merrill, public health adviser at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: “Supervision is central to ensuring that young children are not exposed to significant risk in the home, on the road or while out playing.
“Distractions come in many forms, of course, but with the apparent rise in smartphone use, it’s important to remind parents and carers that texting, calling and surfing the net at inappropriate times can put their child at unnecessary risk of being hurt in an accident.” - Daily Mail