Parenting: Tunes, traffic and trains

Distractions can be disasterous for you and your kids.
David Murphy says headphones can do more than hurt your kids' hearing.
January 30, 2012 5:37:06 AM PST
In case you missed this, researchers at the University of Maryland did some interesting work on just how distracted people get when they strap on those headphones and go running or walking with tunes or talk in their ears. Deaths and injuries to pedestrians shot up three times when people were wearing headphones.

This struck me, because all of my kids have spent a good portion of their teenaged years with cell phones or mp3 players wired to their ears and, as a result, largely out of the rest of life's game. This is okay, to a point, although I can't tell you how many times I've made some great assertion to my kids, revealing some wonderful advice garnered over my many years as a sage, only to find-out they heard none of it because I didn't notice the little wire running down from beneath their hair or cap.

And that's the point. If they're so distracted as to miss a conversation, how's a kid supposed to notice other, more serious things like, say, a Cadillac? Specifically, the researchers in Maryland noted that headphone users don't hear car engines, car horns, and even train whistles. That last one really surprises me; I mean, seriously? A train horn? Those things are as loud as a jet engine taking-off. I know because I've been to that place near the end of the runway with my kids to watch 727s take-off. Of course, my kids didn't react as much as me, because there was that wire?

Adults are susceptible to this as much as kids, although it's worth noting that the research, which involved the review of years of accident records, was sparked by the case of a teenager who was hit by a train while listening to his mp3 player as he was crossing the tracks.

Anyway, you might want to have a conversation with your kids about the use of headphones and pass along to them that people are getting hurt and even killed more often because they're putting more emphasis on music than safety. And while you're at it, mention that people walking around with their eyes focused downward at a text message while walking are also getting themselves into trouble more and more these days. It's the same reason why states and cities are banning texting while driving. Whether behind the wheel or on foot, you simply aren't as aware of your surroundings when your mind is on something other than where you're headed and what's around you. Being distracted can also make you and your kids an easier mark for criminals.

---David Murphy

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