Parents today seem to do a great job preparing their kids
for risky activities, thanks to recent advances in safety
equipment designed to prevent injuries. Most kids use bicycle
helmets, wrist guards, knee pads, safety mats, or life jackets,
depending on what they're doing. Yet unintentional injuries
remain the principal cause of disability and death in children
over age one.
Safety gear often does work; for example, helmet usage has
clearly been proven to reduce a child's chances for head injury.
But there is a potential drawback to safety equipment, according
to a recent study in Injury Prevention.
A telephone survey of 54 mothers of 7- to 9-year-old children
in Ontario, Canada, revealed that the parents allowed their
children to take significantly greater risks when safety gear
was used. Parents also allowed their children to participate
in riskier endeavors if they thought their kids were more
experienced at the activity,
regardless of safety gear use. (Evidence, however, suggests
that boys with more experience at something are just as likely
to be injured as those with less experience.) This was true
in all seven activities studied: bicycling, swimming, skating,
sledding, climbing, running, and jumping on a trampoline.
Safety gear may moderate injury risk, but it certainly doesn't
eliminate it. By allowing your children to take greater risks
when safety gear is used, you make them no safer than if they
took normal risks without gear. Don't just tell your children
to wear their helmets. Monitor their activities to prevent
them from taking additional risks under the false assumption
that they can't be hurt while wearing protective gear.
Morrongiello BA, Major K. Influence of safety gear on parental
perceptions of injury risk and tolerance for children's risk
taking. Injury Prevention 2002:8, pp. 27-31.
To learn more about pediatric health, visit http://www.chiroweb.com/find/archives/pediatrics.