WASHINGTON — The nation's pediatricians keep saying that television can be harmful for babies and toddlers, but this time, they mean it literally. A new study finds that in 2011 alone, televisions falling on children caused some 17,000 injuries that warranted a trip to a hospital in the United States.
And with television screens proliferating in U.S. households — more than half of U.S. homes have three or more TVs — the rate of such injuries is on the rise. Emergency room visits related to toppled TVs have increased 95 percent since 1990.
On average, a TV plummeting from an armoire, bureau or rickety shelf sends a child to a hospital emergency department once every 30 minutes, says a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Almost two in three (64.3 percent) of those injuries occurred in children younger than 5, and boys accounted for a little more than 60 percent of cases.
The most common TV-related injury was to a child's head or neck, accounting for about 63 percent of those seen in emergency rooms. Some 13.3 percent of smaller children and 7.7 percent of youths 11 to 17 sustained concussions from closed-head injuries. An additional 22 percent of children had injuries to their legs.
The authors noted that TVs of all shapes, sizes and vintages were implicated in the injuries. But they noted that, with old-fashioned cathode-ray tube TVs going the way of the eight-track tape, many families are stowing these behemoths on dressers and armoires in lesser-used rooms. The large sets could readily tip on little ones when they are out-of-sight of caregivers, they warned.
As anyone who lives in an earthquake-prone area knows, there is a ready fix for this problem, and the American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to use them. Safety anchors or anti-tip devices can hold a television set more firmly in place, and should come with television sets — along with educational materials — when they're purchased, say the authors of the study, injury-prevention specialists at Nationwide Childrens Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Beyond that, television manufacturers should design television screens and sets to be more tip-resistant.
But the group has a few words of advice to parents, too. Don't set the remote control, or any other object of toddlers' desire, on top of the television set, as children often topple televisions in a bid to reach such things.