Parenting has always been terrifying, but the little device in your pocket that can answer why the sky is blue and what the difference between the measles and the mumps is might also be the cause of an emergency room visit.
A recent study by Craig Palsson at the Department of Economics for Yale University suggests smartphones could have encouraged a five-year increase in the number of injuries to kids under five. The study itself recommends this article from the Wall Street Journal, which spotted that despite many years of decline nonfatal injuries to children jumped 12 percent from 2007 to 2010.
Child Injuries in Kids Under 5
There is no direct causal relationship, but the paper states that smartphones “increase the opportunity cost of supervising children [by allowing parents to check email and watch videos], and the decrease in supervision leads to more injuries.” The paper then attempts to connect the increase in injuries to the rollout of AT&T’s 3G network, which allowed smartphones distract parents more efficiently.
Using 3G is the hinge of the argument (the paper has to prove that smartphones are the root of the distraction, not parents who happen to be distractible). Whenever 3G expands to a new area there was an increase in the number of reported injuries related to children under five. The paper points out that not only do iPhones become more viable with 3G, but potentially 3G allows parents to be around kids more (they don’t have to be in the office to email clients, for example).
The authors of the paper seem to believe the results of their study, but are quick to point out that smartphones in themselves aren’t dangerous. Less than 1% of parents with smartphones had a child five-years-old or under injured.
What will come of this is unclear. Ultimately it might have no legal impact. The study only extends through 2012, which is the last year with the best available data. Maybe the trend continued, but it's also possible that it abated because society is flexible. It adapts to new elements introduced to it. We have always been nervous about technology (even Morse code and telegraphs). The number of injuries could decrease as humans learn to incorporate smartphones into their daily lives.