Nobody would argue against the fact that our smartphones are an enormous convenience to us for communicating and accessing information on the go. And our children, "digital natives," have grown up with these technologies, treating them as a matter of second nature. Although these devices are undoubtedly useful to us, they can also distract us from realities of everyday life to the point of putting our safety at risk - and this has shown to be the case especially for teenagers.
A recent study conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide found that distracted walking, also known as "texting while walking," leads to injury and even death in the same way as distracted driving. In a survey that drew on the responses of 1,000 adolescents, 40% had been hit or almost hit by a vehicle while crossing the street. Researchers also noted that of adolescents who had been hit or nearly hit by a car while crossing the road, 75% of them were texting, talking on the phone, or listening to music. That's a telling figure. Teens practically consider their phones and other electronic devices like iPods as extensions of themselves, but they aren't paying attention to what's happening around them.
So with alarming numbers like these, it's easy to understand that an apparently harmless habit like texting while walking can lead to tragedy in our communities. Everyone, including teens, must recognize that sending a message, watching a video or listening to a song is nowhere near as important as keeping safe on the road. Let's return to common sense. As Safe Kids elaborates in its tips:
- Put down your phone and headphones when crossing the street. You have to listen and look for cars.
- Make eye contact with drivers before crossing so you know they see you.
- Be especially alert when it's dark. Realize it's that much harder for drivers to see you, so make a point of staying out of the way of traffic.
- Cross at traffic signals and crosswalks whenever possible. This will make it easier for motorists to see you.
Relay this information to your kids and make sure they take it to heart. It's easy to get caught up in the distractions offered by our phones, but it's not worth the price of life and limb.