by Brian Eble
Most parents worry about the negative impact watching too much television can have on a young child, but few consider the risks these living room staples can actually pose to their child's physical safety.
Early last month, a 1-year-old boy became the fourth Chicago child in as many months to be killed by a falling television. While this may seem like a rash of freak accidents, it’s actually not that uncommon. Between 2000 and 2010, TV tip-overs sent an average of 13,700 children per year to the emergency room, and while most injuries were relatively minor, 169 children died as a result. A recent study by researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio found that injuries caused by falling TVs had risen 41 percent since 1990, an increase that correlates with widespread sale of ever-bigger flat panel TVs.
In all four Chicago cases, the TVs involved were older, CRT-type TVs, which are still quite common in many homes. But, before you run out and replace that heavy CRT unit with a shiny new flat panel in the name of safety, you must know that simply putting a lighter model in place does not fully eliminate the risk of a deadly accident. Many flat panels have a very small base and far narrower center of gravity, which makes them prone to tip in any direction—not just front to back. Most also have more glass than a CRT and some even have sharp corners. Besides, no matter how much it weighs, anything that falls from a height of two or three feet or more onto a small child is going to cause injury.
Regardless of the type of TV you currently own or plan to buy, it’s critical to childproof the set—just like you would the electrical outlets and other hazards in your home—to prevent a completely avoidable tragedy. How?
- Use only an A/V certified television stand, not just any household furniture like a dresser or cabinet. A/V-specific stands are designed to offer the surface area and stability required to accommodate the set’s “footprint,” weight and, in the case of CRTs that tend to be heavier toward the front, the disproportionate weight balance.
- Do not use a stand with handles or drawers. These are tempting “ladders” for children to climb, which can offset the weight distribution on the furniture and cause the TV to tip, or the child may grab onto the TV itself while climbing and pull it over.
- Do not use a cloth or felt pads under the TV to protect the furniture against scratches. These make the TV much easier to slide and pull off. If you must use something, use rubberized “feet,” which will protect the furniture and help “grip” the surface.
- Keep all cables and cords concealed and out of reach. And, be sure to place the remote either out of sight or in an accessible place, not on the TV stand where the child may try to reach or climb to get it.
- Use a safety device, such as the Stabilis™ Home Safety Kit for LCD/Plasma TVs or a strap for CRT models, to secure the TV to its stand (which you’ve already established to be sturdy, secure and designed to support a TV) or to the wall, if possible.
- Mount a flat-panel TV to the wall with a secure, well-made mounting bracket. Look for mounts that are UL-listed and rated to hold well over the weight of your TV. The better ones are designed to hold up to four times the stated load of the TV for added security, but they must also be installed properly. Consider hiring a professional to do the install if you’re not 100% confident in doing it yourself.
While there’s certainly never any substitute for vigilant supervision, every parent knows you can’t keep a watchful eye on your child at every single moment—and it only takes a split second for something to go horribly wrong. Even if you have older children who are less likely to be hurt by a falling TV, it’s a good idea to protect your investment in the set itself—you never know when a video game session might get a little rambunctious. Add ‘secure the TV’ to your list of childproofing tasks for added peace of mind, both for your child’s safety and that of your shiny new set.