Family Matters

Why the TV Is Risky for Kids: It’s Not Just the Programming

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Chris Stein/Digital

Last week, millions of parents freaked out at the prospect of bugs in their babies’ formula. Yet there’s a far more ubiquitous and deadly threat out there — one that all of us already have in our homes. You know that giant flat-screen TV you’re so proud of? And the towering bookshelf that houses vast tomes of knowledge collected over the years?

They could kill your kid. Every two weeks, a child dies because an unsecured piece of furniture topples over, according to a recent announcement by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). It happened to Sylvia Santiago, who has recorded a public service announcement (PSA) for the CPSC urging other parents to fasten heavy items to the wall or floor. In the unbearably sad clip, Santiago tells of the morning she was awakened at 5 a.m. by the crash of her TV falling: “I did not know she was underneath it, so I called her name, ‘Janiyah, Janiyah, where are you?’ And I turned around, and I just saw her legs under the TV.” (More on Do Parents Discriminate Against Their Own Chubby Children?)

There’s plenty of press devoted to the nationwide campaign to put babies to sleep on their backs, to buckle them into correctly installed carseats, to keep stuffed animals and fluffy bedding out of their cribs. Yet there’s not much talk about the importance of securing heavy, unstable pieces of furniture or appliances to the wall or the floor. From 2000 to 2008, CPSC recorded almost 200 deaths related to tip-overs in children 8 and younger. Most of the deaths — 93% — involved children 5 and younger.

Unwieldy pieces of furniture resulted in emergency room visits from more than 16,000 children 5 and younger, according to CPSC’s latest estimates. “Taking simple, low-cost steps to secure furniture and TVs can save lives,” says CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum.

Santiago never even considered it. “You just don’t think of televisions or bolting your dressers to the wall,” she says in the PSA. “They don’t tell you to do that when you get out of the hospital with your baby. You need a car seat, but they don’t tell you when your child starts walking, make sure your furniture’s bolted down. (More on What Goes on Inside the Brain of a Misbehaving Boy?)

Here, the CPSC offers some tips:

*Furniture should be stable on its own. For added security, anchor chests, dressers, TV stands, bookcases and entertainment units to the floor or attach them to a wall.

*Place TVs on a sturdy, low-rise base. Avoid flimsy shelves.

*Push the TV as far back on its stand as possible.

*Place electrical cords out of a child’s reach and teach kids not to play with them.

*Keep remote controls and other attractive items off the TV stand so kids won’t be tempted to grab for them and risk knocking the TV over.

*Make sure free-standing ranges and stoves are installed with anti-tip brackets.

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