New campaign warns child ‘smombies’ of phone dangers while crossing roads

Award-winning children’s newspaper First News is warning young people about the dangers of crossing the road while using their mobile phones.

Award-winning children’s newspaper First News is warning young people about the dangers of crossing the road while using their mobile phones (Adobe)
Award-winning children’s newspaper First News is warning young people about the dangers of crossing the road while using their mobile phones (Adobe)

Award-winning children’s newspaper First News is warning young people about the dangers of crossing the road while using their mobile phones.

A class size of child pedestrians are killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads every week, official figures show.

And safety experts are increasingly concerned about the rise of ‘smombies’ - smartphone zombies - distracted by their phone screens while walking.

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    Now First News, supported by JPIMedia, the publisher of this website, has begun a campaign called Look Up! to warn of the dangers.

    It is asking children to design posters which will be sent to all primary and secondary schools nationwide as part of a First News Look Up! assembly pack, including classroom resources. 

    All schools will be asked to hold the assembly in the summer or autumn term warning children of the dangers of mobile phone distraction while navigating roads.

    Nicky Cox, editor in chief of First News, said: “For many years it has been clear that there is a link between pedestrians being distracted by mobile phones and road collisions.

    Data shows children travelling to, and from, school are at most risk. 

    “With 2.6 million children reading First News each week, we felt we had a real responsibility to warn them of the dangers and urge them to Look Up!”

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    JPIMedia managing editor Tim Robinson said: "It's terrifying how many children are killed or injured on the roads and we all need to do what we can to stop this.

    "The First News Look Up campaign is a really important step to educate children and their parents about the dangers of using a mobile phone while walking.

    "We're really committed to this partnership with First News and want to do everything to help spread the word to the kids of Britain."

    Global non-profit organisation Safe Kids Worldwide is backing the call.

    A spokesperson said: “Every hour of every day, a teen is hit or killed while walking. 

    “Texting and walking can be fatal. That’s why we’re asking everyone to put phones down when crossing the street.”

    The Covid-19 lockdown and school closures mean the road safety figures for 2020 were affected that year. 

    But, in 2019, 6,200 pedestrians were killed or had life-changing injuries on Britain’s roads. More than one in five of those people (1,415) were aged 17 or under – that’s around a whole class of schoolchildren every week.

    Accident data shows those aged 11 to 14 are the most likely to be killed or badly hurt – around 50 every month.

    A study by the University of Lincoln published in 2019 looked at mobile phone use by schoolchildren while crossing the road. 

    They observed pupils outside a secondary school in the north of England over a four-week period. 

    They were watching to see if the pupils looked, or failed to look, left and right before crossing the road, whether they crossed when the pedestrian light was on red or green and whether they crossed on the crossing.

    The researchers found that nearly a third (31%) of road crossings were made by pupils with a phone or other device and that they looked less frequently when they had them.

    They concluded that the safety of school-age pedestrians is affected by mobile phones and music players. 

    Official road safety figures show that children aged 11 and 12 are the most at risk of serious accidents while walking on Britain’s streets. 

    There were 172 11-year-old pedestrians killed or seriously injured in 2019 - more than double the number of ten-year-olds.

    This is the age most children begin to travel on their own to and from school for the first time. Research by CHILDWISE shows that nearly all 11-year-olds own a phone.