Accidents cause numerous deaths and after-effects in children and young people every year. Prevention through digital technology and gamification can be a powerful tool for instilling safer behaviour in young children.
TEXT: RAMÓN OLIVER IMAGES: PLANETA ODS
Childhood is a decisive stage in life, when personality traits are defined and the paths that a person will later take as an adult begin to be shaped. A time of learning, discoveries, games… And precisely because of this, it is also a period full of risks for the children’s physical well-being.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) data, 90% of the injuries suffered by children worldwide are due to unintentional accidents that occur at home, at school, on the streets and roads, or at beaches and in swimming pools, resulting in around 2,300 injuries per day and 830,000 deaths among children each year. Injuries are, in fact, the leading cause of death in people between 5 and 18 years of age in the European Union.
The fact is that young people are particularly vulnerable to this type of unintentional injury. On the one hand, their immaturity and lack of experience make them behave more recklessly in certain potentially dangerous situations, either because they underestimate the risk involved or because they are unaware of it. A child’s desire to explore, and the sometimes reckless and rebellious phase in adolescents, are natural and an intrinsic part of their developmental process. But they also represent a clear risk factor that makes these youngsters particularly prone to accidents.
Physical factors also play a role. In traffic accidents, for example, children’s smaller stature and body size mean they are less visible to drivers. Their not-yet fully developed body, muscle mass and bone structure also make them more prone to serious injuries than adults.
Play with your family, teach them to protect themselves!
Protecting the family from potentially dangerous accidents and injuries is no game… Or maybe it is. Because, paradoxically, play is an excellent way for children and adolescents to learn how to stay safe. This is the bold approach of the PLANET SDG educational program, an original initiative launched by Fundación MAPFRE to make children and their families aware of the risks to which they are exposed in their daily lives and how to act when faced with these risks.
PLANET SDG is Fundación MAPFRE’s Virtual Safe World, a 100% digitalized, safe and gamified universe in which children and young people can enter a simulated environment and discover for themselves the risks hidden in familiar places such as a house or the street.
In a very educational and experience-led way, children learn by “playing” how to avoid these dangers or how to act should they occur. It is an immersive experience that uses gaming techniques to encourage the learning of safe habits, and it also serves to improve visual accessibility and spatial navigation for users.
This virtual universe presents various interactive scenarios where the user must complete a series of challenges. One of these is the Virtual Home, a scenario that allows the user to navigate through the different rooms of a house and discover the risks hidden in them. In total, there are 47 hidden dangers spread throughout the rooms of this virtual home, including the kitchen, bathrooms, living room and bedrooms. Each time the user identifies one and places the mouse cursor over the element that could pose a risk of unintentional injury, a menu opens with a warning about the risk involved and advice on how to avoid it.
In another of these virtual settings, Road Safety and Mobility 3S, the user travels through the streets of a city trying to become an expert in healthy, safe and sustainable mobility. On this occasion, the challenge consists of discovering the 30 “safecoins” that demonstrate some of the keys to moving around the city safely and in a way that respects the planet.
Through this commitment to prevention, education and digitalization as a way to combat unintentional injuries, Fundación MAPFRE seeks to achieve safer behavior and raise awareness among children of the dangers that lie in wait for them in their daily lives. And although we tend to think that we live in a perfectly harmless environment, safe from danger to our physical well-being, even simple carelessness can radically change this perception in a second.
90 % of the injuries suffered by children around the world are due to unintentional accidents.
The home, hostile territory
Falls are the most frequent injuries in children. And although most of these mishaps do not have serious consequences, for children under the age of 19 these are the leading cause of injury-related hospital admissions in the European Union (EU). Burns, poisoning, cuts, animal bites and stings, electric shocks, sunstroke, heat stroke and drowning are also part of this list of horrors that threaten the safety of youngsters.
More than half of all infant incidents take place in the home, where stairs, sockets, sharp furniture, small objects or toys on the floor, and open doors and windows are veritable minefields for babies who are just starting to crawl or taking their first steps.
The bathroom is a particularly dangerous place. Slips, cuts with scissors or razors, ingestion of cleaning or potentially toxic products, and drowning in the bathtub are the main risks facing the youngest members of the family when they are in this area. Putting anti-slip pads on bathtub and shower surfaces and making sure that sharp objects are out of reach of children are some of the preventive measures we can apply in the bathroom.
Another potentially fatal area is the kitchen. According to the National Child Safety Association, 70% of the most common incidents involving children occur in this part of the home. Burns, choking, poisoning and cuts are the main risks they face in a room where adult supervision is particularly important.
The road is another major source of accidents for children. A particularly dangerous place where it is often the adult and not the child who commits the careless act that leads to the accident. In Europe, at least 1,000 children die every year and another 80,000 are injured in traffic accidents. According to the Spanish Directorate-General for Traffic, 75% of these child deaths and 90% of serious injuries could have been avoided if basic safety rules had been followed. Traveling in the back seat, properly fastened in, in special seats equipped with restraint systems suitable for each age and size is essential so that a car trip does not turn into a nightmare.
As far as the driver’s attitude is concerned, the usual road safety measures in terms of speed, alertness and, of course, avoiding the consumption of alcohol and other substances incompatible with driving should be taken to the extreme when there are children on board, as well as when driving in the vicinity of schools or parks.
Traffic accidents are also common at this age. It is important to teach children how to read traffic lights and crosswalks properly. Not so that they can cross on their own at first, but so that they learn as soon as possible when they can and cannot go across the road, and so that they can assimilate safe behavior for the future.