Child safety campaign highlights digital distraction

A new survey timed to coincide with Child Safety Week 2019 (3rd-9th June) reveals that Scottish parents are more vigilant when looking after someone else’s child than their own when it comes to allowing themselves to be distracted by their phone.
Morwenna Patrick and toddler son Cole from East Dunbartonshire. Copyright photo Paul Chappells 07774730898 Patrick and toddler son Cole from East Dunbartonshire. Copyright photo Paul Chappells 07774730898
Morwenna Patrick and toddler son Cole from East Dunbartonshire. Copyright photo Paul Chappells 07774730898

Nearly four in five parents in Scotland (79%) of children under the age of ten admit to being distracted by their phone while looking after their child; this number drops drastically when it applies to watching someone else’s child, with just under half (49%) admitting to a lack of attention owing to phone usage.

The poll of parents of children under the age of ten across the country was commissioned by leading child safety charity, the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT). This year’s campaign theme highlights how the very things that help make modern life more convenient for parents bring new dangers for children.

Over 500 parents from across Scotland took part in the survey. More than one in ten (13%) said that their child had either come to harm, had an accident or a near miss while they were using their phone. Dads were more likely to confess this had been the case (19%). Figures for younger parents (25-34) responding to this question were (17%), perhaps unsurprisingly, higher than older parents aged 35-44 (12%).

There was a gender divide when it came to digital distraction, with mothers of kids under ten more likely to be distracted by their phones while watching their own child than fathers (women 80% vs men 76%). It emerged that fathers were more likely to admit to always being distracted by their phones than mums (men 12% vs women 5%).

Despite the fact that up to 85% of accidents to children under five happen in the home, 20% of Scottish parents surveyed don’t worry about their child coming to harm in their everyday surroundings. The most likely causes of serious accidents to under-fives in the home are burns, falling, drowning, poisoning and choking.

Contemporary coffee shop culture was named as contributing to the risk of burns; children swallowing harmful substances, as well as running in front of a car, were also mentioned in the report.

Morwenna Patrick from Bardowie, East Dunbartonshire, has a three-year-old son, Cole, and two older children, Lachlan and Ruby, who are at secondary school. She has had to familiarise herself all over again with the hazards.

“I had a narrow escape when Cole was six months old while pushing a trolley in the supermarket. I was holding a cup and stumbled over a kerb. The lid popped off my coffee cup making the hot liquid spill down Cole’s back. The kitchen staff and first aider leapt to my aid and we held him under the cold tap right away. There isn’t a mark on him but it made me much more aware of everyday causes of accidents.

In the survey parents were also asked about their willingness to attend a course on child accident prevention if it was free. Some 62% responded in the affirmative. Only ten per cent of parents of children under the age of ten had attended such a course already. More mothers than fathers – 64% compared to 58% – would attend a course on child accident prevention awareness if it was freely available.

Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust said: “Serious accidents happen in seconds, often while we’re distracted, and it’s so easy to allow our attention to be diverted by our digital devices.

“They also happen in the familiar surroundings of home where often people are more relaxed about potential hazards. That’s why we’re encouraging parents to learn about common causes of childhood accidents and simple ways of keeping children safe – like switching off your phone at pressure points during the day.

“We are delighted that the Scottish Government is very proactive in promoting the child safety message and there is no doubt that its commitment has reduced the likelihood of children in Scotland coming to harm.”

Community Safety Minister Ash Denham MSP added: “Modern life presents opportunities and risks and in our technology dependent world it is vital that we are aware of various hazards around the home and in other places, indoors and outdoors.

“Most childhood accidents happen in and around the family home and by taking a few small steps we can all ensure the safety of our children.

“Child Safety Week can play an important part in helping parents recognise potential risks and hazards in the home and highlight simple solutions to keep children safe.”

A number of high-profile events will take place during Child Safety Week, including a debate in the Scottish Parliament this week (Wednesday 5th), when Clare Adamson MSP, Convenor of the Cross Party Group on Accident Prevention and Safety Awareness, will address the chamber.