US Study shows the extreme safety hazard posed by mobile phones in the hands of children, who gravely risk their lives when they cross streets chatting on their mobile.
"Cell phones clearly offer convenience and safeguards to families, but they also may pose risk," University of Alabama at Birmington researchers said of their findings to be published in the February issue of Pediatrics.
"Particularly when children attempt to multitask while conversing on the cell phone and have reduced cognitive capacity to devote to potentially dangerous activities such as crossing streets."
The researchers had 77 children ages 10 or 11 cross a simulated street six times without mobile telephones and an equal number of times while using cell phones.
Giant screens were used to stream "virtual traffic" at an intersection and pressure pads registered when children were in the faux streets.
Even children familiar with using mobile telephones or considered to usually be "highly attentive" mistimed crossing streets while chatting, according to the study.
Children using mobile telephones checked both ways for oncoming traffic 20 percent less often, gave themselves less time to cross, and were 43 percent more likely to get hit by cars or have a "close call," the study concludes.
The researchers said the results were troubling given that industry trackers predict that 54 percent of US children ages eight through 12 will have mobile telephones by the end of this year.
"Just as drivers should limit cell phone use while driving, pedestrians, and especially child pedestrians, should avoid using cell phone while crossing streets," the researchers said.