by Dr. Gina Rosenfeld.
As more and more states pass legislation making it illegal to text and drive, emergency room doctors, especially those in children’s hospitals, continue to see injuries sustained from cell phone users attempting to send text messages while doing things like riding bikes and crossing streets.
Even something as simple as walking from class to class can become dangerous if a student trips while sending a text message. When people trip with preoccupied hands, the risk of sustaining a facial injury increases because busy hands can’t break falls.
Aside from the risk of physical injury, trying to type a text message while moving diminishes a person’s situational awareness, making them an easy target for criminals. With situational awareness impaired by a cell phone, criminals can easily approach their victims to cause harm without being noticed until it’s too late. Even if the intent of the criminal is not to cause physical harm, a person staring down at their cell phone is a prime target for a purse snatcher, back pack thief or pick pocket.
Even though nothing is so important that it requires a response while in motion, talking on a cell phone while walking is always a safer alternative to texting. When people talk instead of text on their cell phones, their eyes can still scan the path in front of and around them for threats. If walking, cell phone users are urged to call, not text. If steering some kind of vehicle, cell phone users are urged to call back later, when the vehicle is stopped.
Parents: The Example:
Parents can help reduce the number of preventable accidents sustained by children by setting a positive example for cell phone use. If children learn habits from parents, seeing a parent text while driving sends a clear message that texting while moving is okay. When parents practice responsible cell phone use, it leaves no doubt in the child’s mind when it is and isn’t acceptable to use a cell phone.
Alternatives to Active Cell Phones:
Pre-paid and un-activated cell phones in the United States only need battery power to access emergency services, so even users with no minutes on their account can call 911 in an emergency. In the event the child is going out with friends and the parent wants to be able to call them, they can load the phone with a low value calling card just for the evening. Many services even let parents load cell phone minutes online, in case contact is needed unexpectedly. By limiting the amount of time that a child or teen can actually use their phone, the risk of them being injured in a cell phone related accident decreases immensely.