May 13, 2009
With summer on its way, more teens will be responsible for watching siblings,
and more teens will have babysitting jobs outside their homes. While some see
babysitting as an easy way to make some money, it is important for babysitters
(and future babysitters) to realize that it is not a job to be taken lightly.
"Whether it is your first job, or you are a seasoned 'veteran' caring for
young children, babysitting is one of the biggest responsibilities you will
ever have, and something that must always be taken seriously. Consider taking
a child/infant first aid training class. Some employers will insist their
babysitters be CPR certified."
Many days, nothing will go wrong, but the reason that a babysitter is there
(rather than having the kids home alone) is because someone needs to watch
them. Someone needs to be the responsible party who will watch the kids and be
there to keep them out of potentially dangerous situations. Not all accidents
can be avoided, but a responsible caregiver is more likely to see (and
hopefully prevent) an "accident waiting to happen" than a young child. And a
responsible caregiver needs to know what to do if a child is injured.
"In the specific categories, 14% of fall injuries to children and adolescents
were due to falls from playground equipment, 13% were from furniture, 11% were
from skates and skateboards, 3.5% from buildings, and 3.4% of falls were on or
from stairs. ... 'Nearly 17,000 children were rushed to emergency rooms in
2007, the last year for which complete figures were available, after heavy or
unstable furniture fell over on them, a new study reported this month. The
study, published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics by researchers at
Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, found that the such injuries
had risen 41 percent since 1990. The increase correlated with the popularity
of ever-bigger flat-panel televisions that Americans have brought into their
homes in that time, along with the entertainment centers and narrow,
less-stable stands to hold them."
If babysitters are working in other people's homes, they can't be responsible
for properly anchoring televisions and furniture, but they can walk through
the house and observe where potential dangers might be.
"Three-quarters of the victims of falling furniture are younger than 6 years
old, and children that age 'simply don't recognize the danger of climbing on
furniture,' said Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and
Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital. That makes it imperative that
parents take steps to secure flat-panel TVs, which have narrow centers of
gravity, and other top-heavy pieces, said Yvonne Holguin-Duran, a child safety
specialist with University Health System in San Antonio, Texas. 'If we just
take one glance around our house, [parents can] see what safety dangers on
their level these children can get into,' Holguin-Duran said."
While many parents go out of their way to latch cabinets and "childproof"
their homes, not all parents are aware that furniture and televisions can be
as unstable and dangerous as they are. If they are aware of the potential
danger, parents may not always understand how to reduce the risk.
"Parents can minimize risks to children by placing televisions low to the
ground and near the back of their stands and strapping televisions and
furniture to the wall with safety straps or L-brackets. Purchasing furniture
with wide legs or with solid bases, installing drawer stops on chests of
drawers and placing heavy items close to the floor on shelves will also help
prevent tip-overs. Additionally, parents can reduce a child's desire to climb
furniture by not placing attractive items, such as toys or the remote control,
high on top of furniture or the television.
'Pediatricians and child caregivers should be aware that furniture tip-overs
are an important source of childhood injury,' said Dr. Smith, also a faculty
member of The Ohio State University College of Medicine."
While not putting tempting objects in high places may seem like an easy fix,
it is one that many don't think about. The caregiver is there because the
child isn't ready to properly assess the risks and be trusted to make the safe
"More than 80% of fall-related injuries among children four years or younger
occur in the home. ... Many of the falls at home are the result of falling
from furniture. Falls are the leading cause of nursery product-related
injuries. For infants, these falls usually occur when the infant is placed on
furniture, a bed or a changing table by an adult. The infant then rolls off
the raised surface. For toddlers, falls frequently occur when the child climbs
onto and then falls from furniture. ... Although fewer in number, falls out of
buildings are responsible for the largest proportion of fall deaths and
serious head injuries among children. ... Stairs present another in-home fall
risk. ... Young children are at greatest risk for these falls and injuries are
usually minor. However, infants being carried by caretakers who fall down
stairways tend to sustain more serious injuries."
While babysitting may be fun, and it may seem like easy summer money, it is
important to remember that it is an important job, a big responsibility, and
something from which people shouldn't let themselves get distracted.
"Each year, at least one pediatric drowning in Phoenix can be attributed to a
baby-sitter who answered the telephone or spoke with friends while a toddler
slipped into the family swimming pool, toilet, bathtub, dog bowl, etc.
Injuries may occur to children when the baby-sitter's attention is elsewhere.
A toddler may fall or pull a hot pot off the stove when the baby-sitter isn't
Questions of the Week:
Whether babysitting at someone else's house or watching younger siblings in
your own home, what potential dangers should you look for? What can you do to
reduce the risk of injury if you see a potentially dangerous situation? Even
if you don't see any obvious dangers, what can you do (and not do) to help
assure that the child in your care is safe while you are in charge? If you do
see a potentially dangerous situation, what should you do (or say)?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.