May 9, 2018

How To Teach Your Child To Put Their Phones Away When It Matters

Keeping kids safe is no longer as easy as telling them to look both ways when they cross the road. The majority of children have cell phones starting around the age of ten, and accidents caused by distracted walking are increasing at an alarming rate.

Videos that show people walking into trees or falling into fountains because they are focused on their cell phone screen may look funny, but the truth is that serious injuries and even fatalities involving children and teenagers are sometimes caused by distracted walking. Teenagers have the added danger of distracted driving. How can parents teach children to put their phones away when it matters?

Remind Children to Be Aware of Their Surroundings

The use of cell phones while walking distracts people, not just children, from being fully aware of their surroundings. No one would willingly walk into traffic with a blindfold on or with earplugs in to deliberately not hear what’s going on. When a person’s eyes are on the screen and their ears are occupied by blasting music, that person isn’t likely to notice dangerous situations around them.

Dangerous situations go beyond just walking into the middle of traffic. Falling off of curbs and down stairs can also be the result of a walker’s inattention to what’s in front of them. Failing to be aware of what’s going on around you makes you an easy target for pickpockets or other criminals.

Basic Safety Rules

Talk to your children about the basic rules of safety while walking. This includes looking both ways when crossing the street and using crosswalks whenever possible. When a driver approaches, make eye contact with the driver to be sure that driver is aware that there is someone trying to cross the road. Stay on sidewalks whenever possible while walking down the road.

Technology should be put away when walking or driving. This message needs to be reinforced frequently. Let your children know they will lose the privilege of having a cell phone if they fail to follow this rule. This includes not just texting, but also talking on the phone, which has been found to be a frequent cause of pedestrian accidents.

Set Limits for Cell Phone Use

Constantly being on a cell phone texting, talking and playing video games can encourage a child to get in the habit of trying to escape from other experiences of day-to-day life. Part of a child’s day needs to include active experiences such as running, biking, and playing outdoors.

Parents should consider setting limits on the use of cell phones, such as not using them in school or at the dinner table. Set an example for your kids by not using your cell phone while driving or walking, because if you are telling them not to walk and talk on their phones but are doing it yourself, they are learning from your behavior.

The Teenage Years

As your child gets older and begins to drive a car, they will continue to need reminders that distracted driving can be deadly. In 2010, a young Michigan girl named Kelsey Raffaele was killed in a driving accident in Sault Ste. Marie because she was using her cell phone. Kelsey went to pass a vehicle in front of her and failed to notice an oncoming car in the next lane because she was talking on her phone. Kelsey’s mom has worked with Michigan legislatures to create Kelsey’s Law, which bans teens from using their cell phones while driving. The Kelsey’s Law scholarship has also been established in her honor. Michigan high school students are encouraged to come up with unique messages to convince young drivers to reduce distractions.

Car accidents are the top killer of teens, and this is frequently because of the distractions of technology. A split-second decision to reach for a phone to answer a call or read a text can be fatal. Whether your child is walking or driving, technology can wait until it’s safe to focus on it.

Metro Detroit Mommy Writer: