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3 minute read

Do you remember how old you were when you got your first mobile phone? What about when you got your child their first mobile phone?

As mobile phones become more accessible and widely used, the age children get their first mobile phones seems to inevitably get lower. The range of smartphones available, some with limited functions specifically designed for younger children, is also a factor in parents letting children younger and younger have their own mobile phones.

In 2021, (1) released a report which found that more than one in three Australian children under the age of 12 had a smartphone. Of those that did have a smartphone, the average age they received it was just over 7.5 years.

Optus (2) also revealed in the same year that over the last five years, the average age a child received their first mobile phone was between eight and twelve years old.

While there can be endless reasons why we want young children to have their own phones, it is undeniable that there are risks attached to mobile phone usage, risks that are amplified for younger children. Cyber security, stranger danger and screen addiction are but some dangers of smartphones and the internet.

One other danger is neglecting pedestrian safety.  In Australia, there are over 120 pedestrian deaths a year on average and in the 12 months ending October 2022, there were 154 recorded pedestrian deaths. (3).

Land transport is the leading cause of death of Australian children aged 0-14 along with accidental drowning and assault. In 2018, among children aged 0-14 there were 34 recorded deaths relating to road transport and of these child deaths, 29% were pedestrians. (4)

Active transportation is a popular option for children travelling to school. A Victorian study involving 184 children found that nearly 50% of the school-aged children used a form of active transport to get to or from school at least three or more times a week. These forms of active transport included walking, riding a bike, using a skateboard or scooter (5).

The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne also found that half of all school-aged children travelled to or from school without an adult at least some of the time. Nearly one in two teens and one in eight primary school students travelled to school without an adult every day (6).

Road safety/pedestrian safety should be a consideration in the decision in getting your child a mobile phone.

Here are some important reminders to ensure that your child is staying safe and protecting themselves on the roads:

Look Up From Your Phone

An observation found that out of 16,000 pedestrians in Hobart, 2000 used their phones with many looking down at their screens when crossing roads and intersections – that is one in eight pedestrians. A similar study in Sydney, found that 33% of 546 pedestrians crossed city roads whilst on their phones.

It seems that everyone is on their phones but when it comes to intersections and crossing roads, your eyes should be on the road checking for the green pedestrian signal and that all cars have come to a stop before you cross the road. Make an effort to make eye contact with motorists and avoid crossing the road with your headphones on too as this can prevent you from hearing oncoming hazards.

Sharing the Road

It is the responsibility of the motorist to be aware of their surroundings and drive safely. However, it is an unfortunate reality that in the event of a collision between a pedestrian and vehicle, the pedestrian will suffer the consequences much more than the motorist who is protected by the four walls of their vehicle.

That is why it is important to remember that as a pedestrian I need to do what I can to protect myself. While school zones dictate that motorists must slow down to 40km/h, it can be more difficult for buses and large vehicles to see pedestrians and stop in time. Where possible, cross the road at a designated pedestrian crossing – whether that be a zebra crossing or traffic lights. Also remember to not assume that an approaching vehicle can or has seen you. Make sure there are no oncoming cars before calmly but quickly crossing the road.

Be a Good Influence

As a parent or guardian, it is important to understand that children learn from our behaviours and while it is important to tell children to stay safe on the roads, one of the best ways for them to understand the importance of acting safely is by observing your behaviours.

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