The dangers of ‘distracted parenting’

distracted parenting

We’ve all been guilty at least once of taking our kids to the playground, beach or park more for our benefit than theirs. Finding time to rest during a busy day can be quite difficult, and organising for your children to play outdoors whilst having the chance to catch up on emails and social media seems like a win-win situation.

Next time it might be worth leaving your smart phone at home, or at the very least in your pocket – a study by the University of Washington discovered mobile phones were easily one of the most powerful distractions causing parents to not only divert their attention from their children, but also ignore them.

The evidence

During the study, there was an alarming 32 instances when a child attempted to interrupt an adult who was using their mobile phone. In nearly 60 per cent of these cases, the parent failed to look away from the device, respond or speak to the child.

In comparison, when an adult was distracted, conversing with a friend, only 11 per cent failed to respond to their child.

The study also found children were deliberately engaging in risky behaviour when their caregiver wasn’t paying attention. Examples included walking up slides, throwing sand, jumping off moving objects (like swings and seesaws) and pushing other children. This led to injuries, including bruises, scratches and fractures.

There have been other studies supporting the dangers of being distracted whilst caring for children. New York’s Cohen Children’s Medical Centre found most parents know of their distractive behaviour, but don’t like to admit it might be wrong.

Dr Ruth Milanaik, one of the authors of this study, said “limiting electronic distractions… that may interfere with supervision should be considered.”

Dr Milanaik went on to say that 30 per cent of parents studied in playgrounds were distracted by mobile phones (or other electronic devices) while 33 per cent were distracted by talking to other parents.

Like the study by the University of Washington, three out of five falls by children during this time occurred while a caregiver was distracted.

House Call Doctor Brisbane CEO Wayne Ormond said doctors are regularly called out after children have taken a fall at a local park or playground.

“Every mother worries, especially when they’re not sure if it is simply a bad sprain or worse, a broken bone,” Mr Ormond said.

“We also have lots of parents who call with children who have taken a fall at school or during after-school programs/play dates, and by the time night falls they simply want reassurance that the child will be alright.”

Are you guilty of distracted parenting?