A significant decade-long rise in the number of kids showing up at the hospital with broken bones is directly related to the rise in smartphone use, a new study concludes.
Oh goodie! Another way modern parents are failing their kids.
Craig Palsson, an economics graduate student at Yale, tracked injuries and AT&T's nationwide 3G expansion in his paper "That Smarts!: Smartphones and Childhood Injuries," the New York Times reports. Palsson found that between 2005 and 2012, during the time the telecom giant expanded its speediest cell phone coverage, injuries to children under 5 increased 10 percent. Injuries to kids 6 to 10 years old—those of an age who, presumably, do not need focused parental supervision—did not increase. Palsson uses this difference to show that distracted parenting is the cause.
The Times writer Dean Karlan argues a stronger test of Palsson's hypothesis would be to compare playgrounds: school vs. park. Presumably, supervising teachers at school are not distracted by cell phones. If the number of injuries is higher at the park, then perhaps the idea that iPhones are diminishing our ability to parent children safely holds.
One question Palsson doesn't ask, and is clearly outside the scope of his studies, is whether child injuries are that bad. Was there an increase in deaths that he could attribute to iPhones? That would be of grave concern. But broken bones?
The years between 2002 and 2012 were years that, crucially, parents, society, researchers, etc., started pushing back against the idea that kids need constant hovering and oversight. Maybe among all those skinned-knees that parents and psychologists advocate for, there have to be a few broken arms and legs.