It's easy to imagine how this baby could be hurt if the TV toppled over. (Getty Images)
It’s easy to imagine how this baby could be hurt if the TV toppled over. (Getty Images)

As a parent I fret about what TV may be doing to my kids’ minds. Now a study out Monday warns that TVs pose a risk to children’s physical health, too.

Specifically, the problem is falling televisions. If you’re wondering how it is that TVs fall over, researchers say it’s because kids climb on them. Over a 20-year period, researchers say, nearly 200,000 children in the U.S. went to the emergency room because of an injury sustained from a falling TV. More than 200 children have died from these injuries during that time.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

From the Associated Press:

Doctors and safety experts say better awareness is needed about the dangers — especially the risks of putting heavier, older model TV sets on top of dressers and other furniture young children may try to climb on.

Most injuries are in kids under 5; head and neck injuries including concussions are the most common.

“This is a problem that is increasing at an alarming rate,” said lead author Dr. Gary Smith, a pediatric emergency specialist and president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance in Columbus, Ohio.

Smith said it is unclear from the data what type of TV sets are involved in the accidents or whether older, heavier models are the most common culprit.

In 2011, 12,300 children nationwide got ER treatment for TV-related injuries, compared with 5,455 in 1990. The injury rate nearly doubled, from 0.85 injuries per 10,000 children aged 17 and younger in 1990 to 1.66 per 10,000 in 2011, the study found.

The researchers examined national ER data on non-fatal television-related injuries to kids from 1990-2011. In many cases, the set had been placed on a dresser and the child used open drawers as stairs to climb up and reach the TV, toppling it.

Over those two decades, 215 children died from these injuries, government data show, and news reports indicate that since January 2012, at least six young children have been killed nationwide by falling TVs.


Over at NPR’s Shots blog, reporters wondered if flat screen TVs, being more sleek and lighter than the boxes of old, might be safer.

In a word, no. From Shots:

“There is a myth that as flat screens were introduced in the marketplace, we would see a decrease in the number of TV-tip over related injuries to young children,” Smith said. “This study shows the opposite is true.” …

Smith thinks that one reason is that as flat screens entered the home, the older tube TVs were moved to bureaus, bookshelves and other pieces of furniture where they pose a risk to active, inquisitive youngsters.

Another problem could be that flat screens tend to carry their weight to the front of the screen, making it more likely the TV will tip forward, the study says.

“Any TV that goes in the home needs to be attached to a wall,” Smith says, “regardless of whether it is a flat-screen or a CRT.”

Other kinds of furniture pose tip-over risks too. The American Academy of Pediatrics has details on how to secure furniture [PDF] and protect kids. (Bonus: taking these steps will protect you from furniture/TV tipovers in an earthquake, too.)

How TVs Hurt Kids — No, It’s Not the Programming This Time 25 July,2013Lisa Aliferis


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED’s State of Health blog. Since 2011, she’s been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco’s CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for “Best Topical Reporting” from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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