How TVs can kill kids. Hint: it’s not the content

No.. it’s not just the less-than-healthy content that kids can watch on TV that is hurting them.  TVs that are unstably mounted often fall on industrious toddlers trying to reach them, resulting in about 12,300 injuries among U.S. children under age 18 in 2011, up 126% from 5,455 injuries in 1990.  These statistics were published in the August, 2013 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics.

In December, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that TV tip-overs were involved in 215 deaths between 2000 and 2011, including 206 children under age 18.

Why are falling TV injuries and deaths on the rise?  I figured it was the prevalence of larger TVs over High resolution image interior. 3d illustration modern interior. The plasma TV.the past several years.  But surprisingly, according to the new findings, small TVs aren’t necessarily less likely to cause injuries. In 69% of the cases where TV size was documented, the screen was less than 26 inches.  The study’s author hypothesized that when families buy larger TVs, they often move the old TV to a bedroom or basement.  The old TV is often unstably mounted on a dresser, entertainment center, or nightstand.  Toddlers are tempted to climb on the furniture to reach the TV, causing the TV and/or furniture to topple on them.  Dressers seem to be especially dangerous, as kids can pull out a drawer to use as an unstable step to get to the TV.

Most of the overturned TVs fell off a dresser or armoire (46%), an entertainment center or TV stand (31%) or a table or nightstand (8.8%).

Kids under age 5 represented 64% of all injured patients; boys accounted for 61%. The most common injuries were lacerations (37%) and soft tissue injuries (35%). The injuries most often affected the head and neck region (63%).

Death and injury from falling TVs and furniture is nothing new to me as a pediatrician—my most severe patients are engrained in my memory:

  • A beautiful 3-year-old girl with severe facial lacerations including loss of most of her nose after a mirror hanging over a dresser fell on her head.
  • A 4-year-old boy with a skull fracture and concussion after the living room TV fell on his head.  He was trying to turn it on.
  •  A 4-year-old boy with a skull fracture and severe bleeding in his brain after a bookcase he was climbing on toppled over on him.

We can’t stop our toddlers from climbing.  We can stabilize the things they climb on.  Here’s how to prevent death from falling TVs and furniture in your home:

  • All TVs should be firmly mounted to a wall or a piece of furniture.  You can buy wall mounting kits for most TVs, including older CRT models as well as newer flat-screen TVs.  Also consider simply using screws to secure the base of your TV to a piece of furniture.
  • Dressers, bookcases, mirrors and other pieces of furniture should be secured to the wall, preferably with dry-wall screws into a stud.  I hesitated to put screws through the back of an antique oak bookcase my grandfather had refinished for me… until my 2 year-old started to climb on it and I caught it mid-fall. 
  • Avoid storing tempting electronics such as iPads, DVDs, and TVs/remotes on or above furniture you don’t want your kids to climb on.  Don’t store these things over kitchen stoves, either. 

A quick internet search will provide multiple YouTube videos and other how-to articles on how to secure your TV or furniture to a wall.  Here is a good article from Popular Mechanics on how to wall-mount a flat screen TV.

Kathleen Berchelmann, M.D. About Kathleen Berchelmann, M.D.

Kathleen M. Berchelmann, M.D., is a pediatrician at St. Louis Children's Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, director of the St. Louis Children's Hospital Social Media Team, and co-founder of the ChildrensMD hospital physician blog. Her work has been featured in print and online publications including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Chicago Tribune, and TIME magazine. She is a frequent contributor to Fox2 News STL Moms. Kathleen and her husband are raising five children.

Follow Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann on Facebook: ChildrensMomDocs Twitter: @MomDocKathleen and connect with her on .

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