Rise in child injuries may be linked to distracted parenting

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WJLA) - So many personal devices, so little time.

"We're all pulled in so many directions," says D.C. parent Stacey O'Neill.

For many parents, it’s a technological tug-of-war a juggling act between their devices and their kids.

"It's a struggle. It's constantly dinging and going off, and you want to respond," says mother Jodi Whiteman.

Last July, she was caught between a stack of work emails on her device and her six-year-old daughter Lindsey, who wanted to play on the monkey bars in their backyard:

"I said, 'no, no, no, just one more minute,' and she kept saying, 'but I want to go -- c'mon mom, c'mon mom.' And I said, 'you know what, just go."

Minutes later, Lindsey came inside crying with her arm broke.

"I felt really really guilty," says Jodi. "If I just would've put that down and held off for twenty minutes and gone out with her, maybe it wouldn't have happened."

Experts say Whiteman’s case is not unique. There’s growing concern among doctors and social scientists about what they call “distracted parenting.”

"It's absolutely true that parents are distracted on their devices," says Dr. Stephen Teach with Children's National Hospital. "They're not going to be as effectively supervising their kids"

There are no studies showing a connection between distracted parental behavior and childhood injuries, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, non-fatal injuries among children under five years old are rising about three percent a year – now at about 2.5 million annually.

This reverses the trend of the previous decade, and Dr. Teach is convinced that there is a connection:

“These children are having more bumps and bruises, more falls, more drops from the monkey bars, than they would have if the parents hadn't been distracted. “

It’s not just in the U.S. either. A Sweden-based study found that one in five parents there admit to losing sight of their children while on a device. But Nokesville father Ron Hartman is still skeptical about the injury connection.

"I don't know how much of that we can attribute that to the device; children are going to fall one way or another," he says.

Still, Jodi Whiteman says she is taking no chances and that she has learned to prioritize:

"It's really trying to find that balance of when you need to respond and when you really need to say, 'this can wait.'

Lindsey has recovered just fine after getting her arm fixed in the emergency room, and Whiteman says she has set aside phone-free times. She and her husband now take turns using the phone and watching Lindsey.

Child experts say it’s a great technique.