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Distracted parenting: Why putting the phone down is essential to keeping your kids safe

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For toddlers and babies, this is the age of discovery. The world is a brand new place full of new things to investigate, but sometimes that trial and error doesn't always go well which is why young children need constant supervision.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nonfatal injuries to children under the age of five rose 12 percent between 2007-2010. At the same time the number of adults with smartphones in the U.S. climbed to more than 114 million.  Dr. Mary Aitkin, Director of Injury Prevention at Arkansas Children's Hospital says many in the medical world see a connection.

"I think we've all gotten very dependent on this technology and it's so much a part of our lives that we don't realize that there are some things that really need to take precedence. Supervising our kids and driving our cars without these types of distractions are clearly two of those things," Dr. Mary Aitkin with Arkansas Children's Hospital said.

Aitkin says it's typical for parents to over-estimate their ability to multi-task, thinking they can send a quick text, check Facebook or email without taking their eyes off their children for very long.

"It can be very easy to always feel the pull of that phone and our children are only awake for a small portion of the day that we spend with them so, focusing on the child and the activities you can do together or even in parallel where they're being well-supervised seems like a beneficial thing for everybody," said Dr. Aitkin. (?)

Cathleen McFarlin, a mother of two and co-owner of the Wonder Place, an indoor play center, has had a smart phone since her children were born.  She says she makes a conscious effort to leave her phone on silent when she's with her kids.

"My husband and I talk about it a lot and we make it a point to put down the phones and be involved and engaged," McFarlin said. "But I think you have to do that because when you're sucked in five, 10, 30 minutes can go by in no time."

Doctors say that inability to accurately gauge time while using a device is another risk factor parents need to consider.  Doctors are also researching the possible negative impact parental phone use can have on a child's language development and emotional attachment.  If mom and dad are always on their phones, their kids may be missing out.

"A lot of parents aren't interacting with their kids but instead they're sitting on the sidelines with their smart phone," mom Janna Vandiver said.

"Whatever it is, it can wait. It just can't be more important than my kids and more important than the safety of my kids," said mom Stephanie Dyer.

Research also shows kids are more likely to engage in risky behavior when they know their parents are distracted. Another reason why it is even more important that moms and dads put their phones away when they are at dangerous places such as the pool, the park and busy streets and parking lots.

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