Child Safety Week – turn off your phone for the kids

boy looking at porn on laptop

A few years ago, I was almost run over by Adrian Chiles. At least, I think it was Adrian Chiles. It certainly looked like it was him driving the big, flash BMW, but it may have been a lookalike, I suppose.

Either way, here's what happened: I was trying to find an album to listen to on my phone, and stumbled out into the road without looking both ways. It would have broken the Green Cross Code man's heart. Fortunately possibly-but-maybe-not Adrian Chiles was an attentive driver and braked before my flabby corpse dented his expensive-looking automobile, but it was a startling experience to be sure.

On another occasion, I wandered out of a pub after a night out, texting friends with 'hilarious' ale-fuelled witticisms, and almost immediately walked into a lamppost. Fortunately, I got away with nothing more than a headache, some dented specs, and a nagging sense of shame.

Both events had one thing in common - I was paying attention to my phone, not where I was going. And I'm not the only one to make that mistake.

Do it for the kids

So why am I telling you all this, other than a narcissistic need to talk about myself? Because it's the Child Accident Prevention Trust's (CAPT) annual Child Safety Week.

As the name spells out, it's about raising awareness of accident prevention - you know, don't let your kid stick a fork in the toaster or put their face in a deep fat fryer… that sort of thing. This year's theme, however, is "Turn off technology for safety".

Family playing on iPads

As my experiences show, distractions can lead to accidents, and mobile phones are incredibly distracting. In fact, according to research from Nottingham Trent University, the average person picks up their phone 85 times a day - and according to CAPT, it only takes a few seconds of lost focus for an accident to occur.

So, in the spirit of Child Safety Week, we've come up with some techniques you can try to avoid getting sucked in by that most mesmerising of gadgets.

1. Turn it off - Let's start with the most obvious. If your phone's not on, it won't distract you. The problem is that's not always practical. Considering that mobiles are now many people's primary method of communication - to the point that many don't even have home phones - turning off your phone means you can't be reached in an emergency. Do it, if you're comfortable with it, but if not, there are other options.

2. Switch off all notifications except the essentials - If you're anything like me, your phone is constantly buzzing with notifications from Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and so on. You can save a lot of time and headspace if you disable the notifications that aren't important.

Do you really need to immediately know that someone has liked your post on Facebook, or retweeted something on Twitter? Turn them off. You'd be surprised how much more focus you can give something. Your kids will be screaming at you for attention - you don't need your phone doing it as well.

3. Put it out of arm's reach - Whenever my phone's within reach, I find myself instinctively reaching for it. I'm sure many of you are equally weak-willed, so do yourselves a favour and put it somewhere else. Put it in a bag, or in another room - if it's not to hand, you won't look at it so much.

Children playing on a iPad

4. Put it on silent during critical parts of the day - Here's some advice from CAPT. Most parents have parts of the day where they have to wrestle with lots of things at the same time. Getting the kids ready for school, dinner time, or bath time, for example. Turn your phone to silent or just vibrate, to avoid losing focus at these important parts of the day.

5. Get an app that stops you using your phone - If you can't trust yourself not to look at your phone, download an app that forces the issue. Flipd, for example, lets you lock your phone for a set period of time - and once it's locked, you can't unlock it, even if you turn the device off and on again. Even better, you can use the app lock other people's phones, so you can stop your kids getting distracted too.

6. Delete Candy Crush Saga - It's addictive, it's a time-sink, it has to go.

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