It's not surprising to read that researchers have found, when at home, distracted parents are less likely to pay attention to their kids. But what about at parks and on playgrounds? In the morning, I regularly walk by groups of parents looking at their phones while their kids play. I only assume they're writing a status update about parenting rather than actually parenting. But I don't know for sure, so that's what researchers, like Ruth Milanaik and Anna Krevskaya, are here for — finding out if a parent's park-smartphone time is really the distraction I assume it to be. 

They write that “E.R.s treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger each year in the U.S. for playground-related injuries,” according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. So, how much of that could be prevented if parents weren't distracted? Through observational study at seven New York playgrounds, Milanaik and Krevskaya wanted to see for themselves how many of these disasters might be influenced by a distracted caregiver.

The researchers went to a park and picked out a random caregiver who was looking after one child that appeared to be between the ages of 18 months and 5 years. One researcher would observe the caregiver for 10 to 20 minutes total, recording the caregiver's behaviors every two minutes, taking notes on the caregiver's “visual supervision, auditory supervision, engagement with the child, and distraction.” Meanwhile, another researcher observed the child's actions and how many risks they took, such as pushing other children or jumping off moving swings.

They observed a total of 50 caregivers and their children, and recorded a total of 371 two-minute episodes from these unknowing participant pairs. During these recordings, caregivers were distracted 74 percent of the time. However, the data shows that checking their social media newsfeed on their phones is not the most distracting thing parents can engage in on playgrounds. Smartphones and other electronic devices made up only 30 percent of all distractions observed; talking with other adults accounted for 33 percent of distractions; and the remaining 37 percent included miscellaneous things, like eating, drinking, looking in a bag, reading, and other activities. 

Milanaik added in a press release:

"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."

As for the children of those distracted caregivers, researchers found they were more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior. However, Krevskaya noted “that children regularly engage in risk-taking behaviors regardless of the distraction level of their caregivers.”

However, despite the closest supervision, Milanaik understands that “children will get injured,” which is all a part of “natural growing and learning.”

“However, all efforts should be made by caregivers to keep these incidents to a minimum."

Read more at EurekAlert!.

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