According to materials from the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents who take their children to playgrounds and then pull out their cell phones to make a call or check Facebook run the risk of being distracted from monitoring their children.
Annually more than 200,000 children ages 14 and under are treated in emergency rooms as a result of playground-related injuries, says the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CDC explains that 45% of playground-related injuries are severe and include fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations.
ScienceDaily reports that as part of a study about to be presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in San Diego, two researchers observed caregivers and children at seven New York playgrounds in order to pinpoint the types of distractions. They also watched to see if children took more risks when their caregivers were not proactively monitoring them. The subjects were selected randomly and included caregivers with only one child believed to be between the ages of 18 months and 5 years.
One researcher observed a caregiver for 10 to 20 minutes and recorded four behaviors (visual supervision, auditory supervision, engagement with the child, and distraction) every two minutes. The other observer watched the child to ascertain how often the child took risks. In all, 50 caregiver/child pairs were observed and 371 two-minute episodes were recorded. Caregivers were distracted during 74% of the episodes, but most distractions were minimal and for the majority of the time the adult's attention was focused on the child.
Cell phones were not the only cause for distraction. Other distractions included talking with other adults (33% of all distractions); electronic devices (30%); eating, drinking, looking in purse, reading, other activities (37%).
"Caregivers in general are doing a fine job supervising their children on the playground. However, increased awareness of limiting electronic distractions and other activities that may interfere with supervision should be considered," said study author Ruth Milanaik, DO, director of the neonatal neurodevelopmental follow-up program, Cohen Children's Medical Center (CCMC), New York.
Risk-taking activities, including walking up the slide, throwing sand, sliding head first, pushing, jumping off swings, were engaged in by 30% of the children observed. When caregivers were distracted, the children observed were more likely to engage in risky behaviors. During the observations, researchers witnessed five falls which occurred when caretakers were distracted. No children were seriously injured.
Study author Anna Krevskaya, a third-year fellow in the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics Department at CCMC, suggests that caregivers discuss how playground equipment should be used to help children decrease accidents and improve playground interaction.
In the abstract, Playground Observation Study: Come, Play, Put Your Electronic Device Away, the authors state that children's play grounds have become structurally safer from a design aspect, but adult supervision is still an essential element of playground time. In an press release published by EurekAlert!, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the author added:
"Sometimes children will get injured despite the closest supervision, and this is a part of natural growing and learning," Dr. Milanaik, study author Ruth Milanaik, DO, director of the neonatal neurodevelopmental follow-up program, Cohen Children's Medical Center (CCMC), New York, said. "However, all efforts should be made by caregivers to keep these incidents to a minimum."