Never allow kids to cross roads while using cell phones

January 27th, 2009 - 6:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 27 (IANS) Children, who tend to cross streets talking on cell phones, stand a higher risk of injury or even death, according to the latest study. “Cell phones clearly offer convenience and safeguards to families, but they also may pose risks,” said University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) researchers, “particularly when children attempt to multi-task while conversing on the cell phone….”

Researchers used a virtual reality software programme and three screens to display an actual Birmingham area crosswalk with simulated vehicles of different sizes travelling on the virtual street.

In this study, 77 children, aged 10-11, completed simulated street crossings in the virtual environment. They were asked to cross the virtual street six times without a cell phone and six times while talking on a cell phone with an unfamiliar research assistant.

The psychologists found that all of the children - even those who were experienced with talking on cell phones, crossing streets or rated as highly attentive - were more likely to exhibit risky behaviour when they crossed the virtual street while talking on a cell phone.

Specifically, it took the children who were on a cell phone 20 percent longer to begin crossing the street, and they were 43 percent more likely to be hit by a vehicle or have a close call in the virtual environment.

Besides, the children looked both ways 20 percent fewer times before crossing the street and gave themselves eight percent less time to cross safely in front of oncoming traffic when they were on the cell phone.

The study was conducted by doctoral student Despina Stavrinos, under the direction of UAB psychologist David Schwebel. Ph.D. graduate student Katherine Byington also contributed to the study, said an UAB release.

The study will appear in the February issue of Paediatrics.

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