Toddler Drowns While Mom Plays on Facebook: Could This Happen to You?

Julie Ryan Evans

ComuterLast week a Colorado woman, Shannon Johnson, was charged with child abuse after her 13-month-old baby drowned in his bathtub while she played on Facebook. She admitted to playing Cafe World and checking in with friends online in another room while her baby bathed alone. After not hearing him for a few minutes, she went in to find him face down in the water making a "gurgling" sound.

Heartbreaking. Outrageous. Unthinkable. But also perhaps the tiniest bit understandable if we admit it to ourselves. There's absolutely no defending her actions. A child should never be left alone in a bathtub for any length of time. Period. And in this case, it was even more dangerous because the boy had previously suffered from a seizure. But the temptation to do so can be great.

As mothers there are few minutes in the day that we get to relax or unwind or do anything we want to do. Yes, it's part of the job, but a quick pop onto Facebook or Twitter can help us feel connected to people, give us an in with a world we often feel so out of. I can't say I don't do it on occasion. Never while my child bathes, but when I think she's in her room playing quietly or otherwise occupied, sure.

And yes, I have hopped on the computer to check something quick, then looked up a few minutes later to find her with something she shouldn't have or somewhere she shouldn't be. Fortunately, it has been more along the lines of lipstick smeared over her entire body than anything harmful, but it could be.

I think you'd be hard pressed to find moms who don't seek a little online escape throughout the day and shift their attention away, ever so slightly, from their children.

Johnson admitted to police that she left the child alone in the bath frequently because he was "independent," and there's a part of me that gets that too. Sometimes you know what your child is ready for and can handle, and it's not what other parents think is okay. I can't imagine any 13-month-old ready to be in a bath by himself, but I can relate to eschewing traditional thinking because you know your child ... or think you do.

My point is not to defend this mother, because there's no defending her actions. But I think that before we blast and condemn her so vehemently, we should take a look at our own lives and see if there's not just a little bit of understanding there as well, and, more importantly, use it as a tragic reminder as to just how present our young children need us to be -- mentally and physically -- all the time.

Do you ever get on Facebook or play online games when your children are awake?

Image via Baddog/Flickr

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