Which would you rather have fall on your kid: a 36 inch screen, 236 pound Trinitron tube TV or a 40 inch screen, 43 pound Bravia LCD TV? The correct answer, of course, is neither. Unfortunately, it seems that many people have inadvertently opted for the second choice, with the number of children injured by falling televisions increasing despite the shrinking mass of today’s flat screen TVs.
Being hit by a television seldom ends well. While flat screens are much lighter than CRT models, the screen sizes keep growing, resulting in increased weight. Even a small flat screen is still a big slab of glass surrounded by sharp plastic and metal. Being hit by a TV can cause a range of injuries, including skull fractures, other fractures, bleeding in the brain, nasal obstructions, loss of facial nerve function and hearing loss. Sometimes injuries are severe enough to be fatal.
Our current obsession with thin has caused some problems with respect to safety. The most current published stats are from 2007, but during the 1990 to 2007 time frame -a period that marks the transition from bulky CRTs to relatively svelte flat screens- the number of children injured by toppling furniture rose 41 percent, with nearly half of the carnage caused by TVs. To put that in perspective, 17,000 children in the US had to be rushed to Emergency in 2007 after furniture fell on them, with half that number being TV victims. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, seven people were killed by falling TVs in 2000, with the number rising to 23 deaths in 2006. Why should this be?
Much of the blame for the increase in injury rates lies in parents’ mistaken assumption that because a modern flat screen TV is so light compared to the massive tube TVs they grew up with, the danger of the set toppling over is correspondingly reduced. It’s a false sense of security. You may not have seen one recently, but a 40 inch tube TV commands respect. It’s not only massive and difficult to move on its own, but it has such a large footprint that it’s actually pretty stable, especially on the low bases these TVs were typically placed on. Nonetheless, parents pictured what 250 pounds of glass, plastic and metal would do if it landed on their kids, and they installed the safety straps that secured the TV to a wall or the base it stood on. Flat screen TVs are large, thin objects that balance on a relatively thin base, making them extremely top heavy and prone to easily tipping if a child pulls on them. At that point it doesn’t matter that they “only” weigh 50 pounds, it’s still 50 pounds falling several feet onto a little person.
The good news is that it’s easy to prevent these sorts of accidents from happening. If you want to place a flat screen TV on a cabinet base, choose a base that’s low and stable, without drawers that might invite climbing. Fasten the cabinet to the wall behind it with a safety strap. When you place the TV on the cabinet, use straps to fasten it securely to the cabinet and, if possible, to the wall as well. The best option is one that also shows off the best of your flat screen; do away with the cabinet and wall mount it. Mounts are available that can hold your TV nearly flush against the wall for a clean look, while supporting several hundred pounds. Out of reach means far less likelihood of little hands being able to grab it, and this option takes the potential wobbliness of cabinets out of the equation altogether.
In the end, the most important piece of safety advice is to keep an eye on your kids and make sure they know they aren’t to climb on the TV; but because kids will be kids, make sure you also invest in some basic safety precautions.