While most people know the dangers of illegally using a mobile phone while driving, picking one up to read a text or check a social media account while at home with the children may not sound like the riskiest of behaviours.
But new research suggests nearly one in four parents have been using a phone when their child’s been involved in an accident or near miss.
The Child Accident Prevention Trust’s findings have prompted it to call on parents to avoid using their phones and other mobile devices when they should be keeping an eye on their children.
Serious accidents involving children, says senior paediatrician Dr Rahul Chodarhi of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, can happen within “a split second” and are much more likely to occur if the person who’s meant to be supervising them is engrossed in something on their smartphone.
‘Mobiles are seriously distracting’
Babies and toddlers, she says, can easily grab hold of a mug of hot coffee and spill it on themselves – raising the risk of a burn injury – while a parent is distracted by their phone.
The trust’s chief executive, Katrina Phillips, says while mobile phones have become part of everyday life they can be “seriously distracting”.
While that is “putting children in danger”, parents can minimise the risk and keep their children safe by avoiding the technology when they are supervising their children, she adds.
The research also shows that one in seven older children have had an accident or a near miss, such as stepping out onto the road without looking, while using a phone.
It is estimated that two-thirds of Britons own a smartphone and studies have suggested that one in three check them at least every half hour.