Gather any group of parents for a playgroup or a cup of coffee, and the conversation will inevitably turn to screen time: what the risks are, at what age it’s OK, how much is too much, how screen time should be spent, etc. But many parents don’t realize there is a physical danger that’s even more of a threat. According to a report in Yahoo! News UK and Ireland, an American child is injured by a falling TV set every 30 minutes.
The Week offers even more startling TV-injury statistics from the U.S.:
- In 2011, 41 people – mostly children – were killed by falling TVs.
- Falling TVs have killed over 200 children since 2000.
- Each year, 18,000 people are injured by falling sets.
- A child is killed by a falling TV set an average of once every two weeks.
The numbers are rising. Safety experts suspect that the increase in the number of TVs per home is one factor; there are simply more opportunities for an accident to happen. Another factor is that families are replacing traditional, boxy sets with flat-screen TVs. For one thing, flat-screens tip more easily because of their weight distribution. For another, families often move the old TVs to bedrooms and basements (where there tends to be less supervision), often placing them on furniture that was not designed as a TV stand. For instance, many children have been injured trying to climb a dresser or armoire to reach a TV. This type of furniture can also tip easily if a child falls or bumps into it.
What to Do
While these statistics are for the U.S., where over 99 percent of homes have at least one TV, the U.K. is not immune. Parents in the U.K. should take the same steps recommended for parents in the U.S. to protect their children from injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following precautions:
- Secure all tall furniture – like dressers, bookcases, entertainment units, and TV stands – to the wall, preferably to a stud. If necessary, use braces, brackets, anchors, or wall straps.
- Secure the TV itself to the wall or stand with a child safety device designed for that purpose.
- Place TVs on low, sturdy furniture. Make sure the furniture is large enough; the TV should not hang over the edges.
- Don’t place TVs on dressers, armoires, or other tall furniture.
- Push the TV as far back from the edge as you can.
- Don’t store remotes (or other interesting items, for that matter) on the TV itself or the furniture it’s sitting on; that invites children to climb.
- Put electrical cords out of reach, or use a child safety device designed for that purpose. It’s also a good idea to teach kids not to touch electrical cords.
If an Accident Happens
Sometimes accidents happen despite our best efforts to prevent them. If a TV does fall on your child, prompt medical attention is critical. In addition to treating obvious lacerations and other soft-tissue injuries, doctors should closely screen your child for head and neck injuries or other internal damage.
The aftermath of an accident is difficult for the whole family. Parents who had not properly secured the furniture and TV may feel horribly guilty. Those who did secure things might wonder why those precautions failed. Did they install the security devices correctly, or was something wrong with them? Parents whose children have lasting injuries may wonder if they received the very best treatment at the hospital. Or they may wonder how to pay for any ongoing care their children might need. Sites like this can help parents sort through all of those issues and find a resolution that’s best for their child.
No child should have to be injured or killed by a falling TV. It’s one type of accident that’s very preventable, and doing so requires only a small investment of time and money. Your child’s safety is worth it. Secure your furniture, secure your TVs, watch your children, and teach them not to climb. If the worst does happen, know what to do and how to find the people who can help you through it.
Millie Whitehead is a risk assessor and a busy mom. She enjoys writing about home safety on family and home blogs.
Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to keep their children safe.