Friday, December 26, 2008

Flattened By A Flat Screen?

An unfortunate circumstance that I've been hearing about more and more in the news is large televisions falling on young children. My wife has taken care of a few of these injuries at work, and they are NOT pretty. In fact they're pretty devastating. One family kept their toddler alive for months, even after the kid's brain herniated through the foramen magnum, forcing the ethics committee at her hospital to convene.

I think this may be a relatively new phenomenon because I really don't remember hearing of these types of injuries before. Probably it did happen, but it must be much more frequent now. I would hypothesize that as technology develops, TV's are getting bigger as larger screens are supported. At the same time they're getting thinner. Now all of this sounds great--stronger, faster, better, we have the technology. But unfortunately this also leads to televisions that have much narrower bases, and subsequently a much higher tipping hazard. And that's not even thinking about TV's hung on the standard substandard interior walls that are the staple of today's modern construction home.

This morning I was struck by another aspect of this phenomenon that I hadn't previously considered. The 2 y/o and I were watching PBS this morning, Super Why in fact. For those that are non-kidded, Super Why is an animated show that integrates reading, language, and letters into stories. This morning the characters where spelling words letter by letter from an alphabet graphic. As with most children's programming these days, the show was trying to be interactive and asked the audience where the letters were. Since she knows her alphabet(!!!) the 2 y/o trundled right up to the screen to point out the next letters needed. Now, we're not rich enough to own a flat screen and still own a hulk of a CRT TV, albeit more stable because it has a much larger base. However, it's easy in my mind's eye to see that these shows are enticing kids right up into the danger zone.

The solution seems pretty easy here. First of all, young kids should always be supervised, even when they're being babysat by the TV. Seems like a no-brainer, but every parent could always use a reminder (self included.) Secondly, installation of the provided wall tethers is essential. Thirdly, wall mounted TVs should be secure fixed into studs, assuming you can find one. Studs are easily located using a studfinder--they can be found at any hardware store and are relatively inexpensive. On a side note, we tried using one at our house, but it didn't work--too much interference I guess. (Wait for it, you'll get it, haha...)

As technology morphs our society, we need to keep up in our awareness of potential dangers as parents. We owe it to our children. Because a 52" flat screen is a really stupid way to die.

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