Child Safety Tips


Strapping children into car seats and using seat belts is the best way to protect kids in the car. See more parenting pictures.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

Childhood accidents are numerous and range from the less common, yet nightmarish car accidents and child abductions to equally dangerous, more commonplace playground and pool accidents. Ensuring physical safety is important while avoiding being overprotective, because it scares the child into fearing the world while stunting a healthy curiosity. In this article, we will show you how to help ensure your child's safety in the following areas:

  • Child Care Safety Car accidents are the leading cause of injury for infants. While there are plenty of devices on the market to make your car perfectly safe for a child, some parents do not use them or use them improperly. In fact, the most common injury stems from children sitting in a parent's lap. On this page, we will show you the proper safety measures you should take when your little one is in the car.
  • Preventing Child Abductions Though child abductions are not very common, they remain a main fear of most new parents. The key to decreasing your child's chances of getting abducting is instilling the proper amount of apprehension about strangers without making your child terrified of the world around him. Teaching your child your phone number, address, and other important bits of information can also help prevent abductions.
  • Playground Safety Though they rarely result in death, playground accidents are the leading cause of injury to elementary school kids. Falling ten feet off the slide or monkey bars, especially onto hard surfaces like concrete, can result in lacerations, fractures or paralysis. Parental supervision, and teaching kids how to be safe, increases playground safety.
  • Pool Safety Another great risk facing children, especially toddlers, is drowning or water aspiration if they are near a pool or other body of water. Toddlers are too young for swimming lessons, and their contact with the water should be limited, though lessons are definitely a good idea for older kids. On this page, we will show you how to protect your child at the pool.
  • Handling a Childhood Accident Generally speaking, childhood accidents will happen, usually on a smaller scale, and while ensuring physical safety is important, overprotectiveness is not a virtue because it scares the child into fearing the world while stunting a healthy curiosity. Remember that a cat that jumps on a hot stove once will never jump on a hot stove again, but it won't jump on a cold stove either. In this section, you will learn how to deal with the inevitable accident.

Child Car Safety

Car accidents are the leading cause of death in children after the first few months of life. Of all deaths due to injury, two thirds are related to motor vehicles. In the one- to four-year-old age group, two thirds of the children who are killed in car accidents are occupants of a car, and one third are pedestrians struck by a car. It has been estimated that most of those deaths and injuries could have been prevented by the use of car seats and seat belts.

Children can be injured by cars in two major ways. Children playing on the sidewalk may be hit by a car that jumps the curb, or they may be struck if they venture into the street. But more commonly, a child is hurt when a car in which she is a passenger is involved in a collision.

When a car stops suddenly, the unrestrained passenger continues to move at the original speed until she hits something that stops her. This is usually the interior of the car but may be the ground if the passenger has been ejected.

Children who are at highest risk of injury in an accident are those held in an adult's lap. Not only is the child thrown forward into the dashboard, but she is smashed from behind by the weight of the adult. Even if the passenger is belted in, it is nearly impossible to hold onto a child in a crash. For example, to hold onto a ten-pound infant in a collision at 30 miles per hour requires the same amount of strength as lifting 300 pounds one foot off the ground!

To prevent an auto injury to your child, you must address the issue of safety from the point of view of each of the ways in which injury occurs. You have to consider both pedestrian safety and auto safety.

To make sure your child isn't struck by a car, teach her to respect the road and to walk defensively. Teach her to play in the yard or on the sidewalk and to stay away from the street. And keep an eye on her as she plays. As she gets older, teach her to look both ways before crossing the road. Be sure she knows how to read traffic signals.

To keep your child safe in the car, drive carefully and defensively. Follow the rules of the road. Don't allow your children to distract you -- concentrate on driving. Avoid having any sharp or heavy objects in the car that could become flying missiles in a sudden stop or crash. But the most important precaution doesn't concern your driving skills, but rather one simple plastic and metal device -- a car seat.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require child restraints in automobiles. While states regulate their use, the federal government regulates the construction of car seats. Child seats must meet federal standards for crash protection, standards that are based on dynamic, rather than just static, testing.

The safest place for a child under eight years of age is in the back seat of a car. This reduces the risk of injury from both an accident and any airbags that might be deployed during an accident.

Car accident deaths are much more common than child abductions, though both situations are nightmares for parents. Read how kidnappings can be prevented next by never leaving a child alone in a public place.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Preventing Child Abductions

Teaching your child your home phone number is an important safety measure in preventing abductions.
Teaching your child your home phone number is an important safety measure in preventing abductions.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

The majority of children reported missing each year are runaways or the objects of custody disputes. In fact, a child is much less likely to be abducted than to be in a car accident; however, media attention would lead people to believe that child abduction is quite common. Of the children that are abducted, 25 percent are taken by strangers; most abducted children are taken by someone they know.

Small children are at particular risk of being victimized. They are taught to respect adults, to be polite, not to question older people, and certainly not to yell or fight. In addition, they are easily swayed by offers of food or treats. Their small size also makes it easy for someone to physically abduct them.

When a child is reported missing, law enforcement agencies become involved. It is essential to report a missing child to law enforcement immediately. Many states have Amber Alert systems that rapidly notify the public when a child has been abducted. Cases of missing children can also be logged into the FBI's National Crime Information Center computer.

Parents' organizations are also taking a vigorous role, not only in helping to locate missing children but also in preventing abductions. The oldest group is Child Find, established in 1980. This group publishes an annual directory of missing children. Other groups provide information and educational materials to parents and lobby for stiffer penalties for offenders.

The individual family still has the major responsibility for preventing child abduction. There are a number of precautions you can take. For example, never leave an infant alone in a car, stroller, or shopping cart, even for a second. If your child is in child care, be sure the center has a strict policy regarding pick-up.

If you are in a large public area, such as a mall or the airport, consider using a child harness. While some people object to "keeping a child on a leash," harnesses ensure that your busy toddler is physically connected to you and cannot wander away or be abducted. Electronic devices that sound an alarm when a child wanders beyond a certain distance from a parent are also available.

Starting when he is three years old, you can discuss the problem directly with your child. Approach this subject simply and straightforwardly. Talk about what to do, but not about the consequences of kidnapping to avoid scaring your child needlessly. Broach the subject gradually, as different situations arise. Provide frequent gentle reminders by asking your child how he would respond to a stranger.

When instructing your child to avoid "strangers," define the word. Explain to your child that he should avoid conversation or contact with anyone who you have not met together. Be sure your child understands that no one may take him someplace without you coming along and that no one may touch him in any way that makes him feel uncomfortable. Remind your child that this includes family members, friends, neighbors, and other people he knows.

Teach your child to say "No" to anyone he does not know, who makes him feel afraid, or who wants to take him someplace. If someone your child does not know offers him candy or asks him to help find a lost puppy, he should be taught to say "No." He should ignore people who ask him for directions or beckon him closer. If they persist, he should run or yell and even fight if the person attempts to touch him.

Teach your child his name, complete address (including city and state) and phone number (including area code). Don't buy items, such as T-shirts, with your child's name on them. A stranger could use that knowledge to approach your child in a nonthreatening way. Establish a code word for emergency use in case your child needs to be picked up by someone else. Read-aloud books and videos are available to help teach your child these lessons.

You may want to keep a file with your child's fingerprints, dental records, and current photographs. The value of fingerprinting, however, is controversial. Though it helps you feel you are taking steps to protect your children, it will not prevent their disappearance. It will only help identify a small child who doesn't know his or her name or one who has recently been murdered. Some people consider fingerprinting, especially when schools or police receive copies, a violation of a child's constitutional rights to privacy and to freedom from self-incrimination. Others feel it alarms children unnecessarily. Whether to fingerprint your child must be your individual decision.

You can take many precautions, then, to protect your child when away from home, from car seats to careful driving, from fingerprinting to teaching your child to say "No." While you don't want to become excessively wary, you do need to be concerned-for your child's sake.

As more and more children use the Internet to do homework, play games, and chat with friends, it becomes more important for parents to set rules and limitations to protect their children. Although it is difficult to monitor your child's Internet use, you can demonstrate an interest in which Web sites your child visits, who he contacts, and how he uses the Internet. Talk with your child about the friends he makes on the Internet. Explain why your child must never give out any identifying information that could lead someone to find him; this includes home and school addresses, school activities, and travel plans. Do not allow your child to meet anyone from the Internet in person, either at home or anywhere else. Gently remind your child that he doesn't really know anything about the friends he meets on the Internet. Although people may send him a picture, it's possible that they are entirely different from how they present themselves to your child.

Encourage your child to engage in activities that do not involve the Internet. Your child's school and local law enforcement agencies may offer educational materials on Internet safety.

Though they rarely serious, playground accidents are the leading cause of injury to elementary school children. Read about how parental supervision increases playground safety next.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Playground Safety

Playground accidents are a leading cause of injury to elementary school kids.
Playground accidents are a leading cause of injury to elementary school kids.
© Publications International, Ltd.

Playgrounds and pools are places for recreation and relaxation. But the laughter can easily turn to tears if you're not careful.

Younger children are likely to be injured on the playground because of their stage of development. They are compelled to investigate. They won't be satisfied at the bottom of the slide -- they need to see the top, too. But physically, they are not coordinated enough to do what they want. In addition, they can't project the consequences of their actions; they never anticipate falling off.

Slides, in fact, are one of the most hazardous pieces of playground equipment. Other pieces of equipment to watch out for include swings, climbing structures (such as monkey bars and jungle gyms), and seesaws.

Most children are injured by falling. A fall from ten feet -- the top of the monkey bars -- can result in lacerations, fractures, paralysis, or death. The most serious injuries occur when children fall onto concrete or asphalt rather than onto a more yielding surface, such as sand.

Children can be injured in other ways as well. They may be hit by moving equipment or cut by rough or sharp edges, or they may become stuck in the equipment.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has established voluntary product safety standards for home and public playgrounds. These include equipment specifications and suggestions for everything from the type of base surface to design and arrangement of the play area. The standards also stress that safe playgrounds require adequate supervision and maintenance, as well as good design.

It is essential to teach your children how to behave at the playground and to supervise their activities. Teach your children to hold onto all equipment with both hands. Teach them to wait until moving equipment stops completely before they get off. Teach them to sit on the swings and slides, not stand, lie, or hang upside-down. Only one person should be allowed to use playground equipment at a time. Be sure they don't push or shove, and they walk well away from areas where other children are swinging or sliding. Be sure the equipment your child plays on matches her ability. A ten year old can easily climb a jungle gym, for example, but a two year old shouldn't follow suit. Teach your children to use equipment as the manufacturer intended. For instance, children should swing on the swings, not twist around.

There is a growing public awareness of environmental hazards. Although little research has been done on the subject, playgrounds may pose subtle dangers. Some parks have been built on previously contaminated landfills. Others, especially those near freeways, may have high lead levels from automobile fumes. Some playgrounds surrounded by open land are sprayed with pesticides. Other playgrounds have wooden equipment that has been treated with wood preservatives or painted with lead-base paint. Better planning by manufacturers and playground owners and greater parental awareness could reduce the risks posed by such toxic chemicals.

Another great risk facing children, especially toddlers, is drowning or water aspiration if they are near a pool or other body of water. Toddlers are too young for swimming lessons, and their contact with the water should be limited, though lessons are definitely a good idea for older kids.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Pool Safety

Toddlers are at risk of drowning or water aspiration because they can't swim.
Toddlers are at risk of drowning or water aspiration because they can't swim.
Publications International, Ltd.

When most people think of pool-related injuries, they think of drowning and water aspiration. Diving injuries also occur and can be very serious. However, older children and adolescents account for most of these. In younger children, falls and cuts are common when children slip on wet surfaces.

Toddlers are at particularly high risk for drowning. Their size makes even a small amount of water hazardous. In addition, they are often unsteady and fall easily, and they seldom know how to swim.

One step, then, to preventing drowning is to teach your children how to swim. The value of toddler swimming lessons has been debated, but lessons can be worthwhile -- especially if the disadvantages to them are understood. Children who have had some form of swimming lessons are only half as likely to need some type of assistance in the pool as children with no training. Also, toddlers who start swimming earlier are more likely to become competent swimmers as adults.

The biggest disadvantage to toddler swimming lessons is that, afterward, parents believe the child is water-safe and don't watch her as carefully as they might if she had not had lessons. Although your child may be more comfortable in the water after taking lessons, she really can't swim well, nor can she be expected to know how to react to emergencies.

Infant swimming lessons have other drawbacks. Prolonged lessons have been associated with water intoxication (drinking too much water). Therefore, the YMCA recommends prohibiting forced submersion and limiting inwater time to 30 minutes. In addition, when children are still in diapers, it becomes difficult to maintain the effectiveness of the pool's chlorination. There have been reports of epidemics of diarrhea diseases from infant swimming classes.

Besides swimming lessons, other precautions may help prevent pool accidents. Fences and self-locking gates around public and private pools may prevent a toddler from toppling in while unattended. Floating alarms that sound a loud tone when water is disturbed may be a good idea. Pool covers may help, too, but remember that they can collect rainwater and become a drowning hazard themselves. Adequate supervision, from both parents and lifeguards, is a necessity. Teach your child to follow rules in the pool area, such as no running and no diving in shallow water. Finally, use life jackets on young children who don't know how to swim, but don't become complacent-life jackets, too, can fail.

Similarly, bear in mind inner tubes, air mattresses, and other flotation devices are for fun only; do not trust them in deep water or if your child is out of your sight. Toys break, inflatable devices deflate. Don't place your child in unnecessary peril by trusting such devices. And never use any device to help your child stay afloat that is not certified as a personal floatation device; some inflatable toys and devices may actually increase the risk of drowning by making a child float face-down in the water.

Generally speaking, childhood accidents will happen, usually on a smaller scale, and while ensuring physical safety is important, overprotectiveness is not a virtue because it scares the child into fearing the world while stunting a healthy curiosity. Read about handling a childhood accident next.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Handling a Childhood Accident

Childhood accidents will happen, and even the most vigilant parent cannot prevent them.
Childhood accidents will happen, and even the most vigilant parent cannot prevent them.
Publications International, Ltd.

The world opens up for a newly crawling baby. As excited as you may be about this stage of your infant's development, it is also a period filled with incredible anxieties for you. No matter how adept you are at safety proofing, and no matter how vigilant you are in supervising your baby's activities, childhood accidents will inevitably happen.

When they do, it is important for you not to overreact. Despite their small stature and delicate appearance, babies actually are rather hearty creatures. Although they may scream and carry on a great deal when they first experience a bump or scrape, within a few minutes, they probably will resume whatever it was they were doing, with the unpleasant incident largely forgotten.

On the other hand, no matter how slight the damage to your baby, you are likely to continue suffering for quite some time. This response is normal and natural, but you should make an effort to keep it from getting out of hand. If you go overboard in trying to make sure that another accident will never happen, you probably will do little more than make yourself crazy. More importantly, overprotectiveness usually results in overrestriction and oversupervision. The advantages that your baby will gain in physical safety probably will pale in comparison with the disadvantages he'll suffer in terms of reduced opportunities to explore and investigate independently.

Toddlers, too, have a natural enthusiasm and sense of adventure that could get them into trouble. When older children are involved in accidents, you should use the accident as a teaching tool. In a positive, constructive manner, you can teach your child how to avoid getting into similar trouble again.

Take this time to talk to her about what happened, how it happened, what her alternatives were, what to watch out for next time, and so on. If appropriate, you may consider some form of punishment as well, such as suspending a relevant privilege if the accident occurred because of your child's negligence or direct disobedience on her part.

But, again, be very careful not to make the accident worse than it is by overreacting and terrifying your child further. Keep in mind that a cat that jumps on a hot stove once will never jump on a hot stove again -- but it won't jump on a cold stove either. In attempting to keep your older child safe, you don't want to scare her into avoiding the world; rather, you want to teach her how to deal with the world in a responsible way.

While, of course, you must do everything in your power to see that your family avoids major accidents, you should also try to relax and realize that a few bumps, scrapes, and bruises are a small price to pay for indulging your children's curiosity and allowing their minds to expand to the fullest extent possible.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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ABOUT THE CONSULTANTS:

Alvin Eden, M.D. serves as a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Weil Medical College of Cornell University in New York, New York. He is Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn. Dr. Eden is also the author of a number of child care book, including Positive Parenting and Growing Up Thin.

Dr. Elizabeth Eden, M.D. is a practicing obstetrician with her own private practice in New York City. She serves as an attending physician at the Tisch Hospital of the New York University Medical Center, as well as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the New York University School of Medicine.