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Some days it just feels easier to bubblewrap your child and never let them out of your sight. The amount of safety hazards a parent’s mind can dream up is never-ending. From stranger-danger scenarios and biking accidents, to household fire hazards and pool safety, the number of worries that go through a parent’s mind can be truly dizzying.
However, there are safety rules that, if followed, will go a long way in keeping your child out of danger. And let’s face it, we’ve made great progress in the last generation or so (as in, we actually have seat belts and car seats, and we’re no longer going helmetless while popping a wheelie down a steep incline).
In all seriousness, the majority of child fatalities and accidents are preventable. Some of the top reasons kids are brought into the ER, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include car accidents, near-drownings, poisonings, gunshots, and head injuries. Many of these scenarios can be prevented by following basic safety rules.
Below, we break down the six most important safety rules for families with kids, so that you can worry less and enjoy your time with your family more.
Tick off strict car seat laws as a major child safety win of the last 25 years. Compared to just using a seat belt, proper car seat usage reduces the risk of injury in a car accident by 71 to 82 percent for children 12 and under. However, it’s vital to have the right type of car seat installed in the correct position for your child’s age. To make sure your car seat is properly installed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a step-by-step guide, plus resources to find a certified technician near you to get your seat inspected.
When it comes to saving lives, seat belts are no slouch for older kids and teens, either. According to the NHTSA, seat belts reduce fatalities in car crashes by 45 percent, and of the fatalities reported annually, 58 percent were unrestrained. But proper seat belt placement for a growing kid is also important. Make sure the shoulder harness is worn across the chest and doesn’t hit the neck or chin. The lap belt should be worn low and snug around the hips. Don’t put the shoulder strap behind you, and if your child complains it’s uncomfortable, it’s often because they’re not wearing it properly, or because they’re too short to be out of a car seat.
Car seats and seat belts should be non-negotiables in your rule book.
Pro Tip:Register your car seat with the NHTSA to make sure you’re alerted about any manufacturer recalls or safety updates.
Head trauma is among the most common childhood injuries, especially while biking, skateboarding, or scooting, but helmets reduce brain and head injury by 63 to 88 percent, according to a study by the Child Health Institute.2 Unfortunately, adherence to helmet laws is not as high as it should be considering the data. Laws vary by state, but almost every state has a helmet law on the books. Not surprisingly, the states with the stricter universal helmet laws saw better adherence to helmet wearing, according to the Journal of Safety Research.3
It should be noted that children are more likely to wear helmets if the adult in their life does as well, so even if you feel dorky, strap one on and model smart safety behavior. Additionally, it’s not just about wearing a helmet, it’s about wearing a helmet properly.
Follow the below steps for correct positioning and placement, per the NHTSA:4
Accidental drowning is a real and scary concern, and your two best defenses are constant supervision while near the water, and a childproof gate around your pool. The next-best form of prevention is teaching your child to swim between the ages of 1 and 4. According to the American Association of Pediatrics5, lessons under the age of one are useful as a parent-and-me activity and to get infants accustomed to water, but aren't true swim lessons.
Did You Know? While swimming lessons are vital for children, remember that the ability to swim doesn’t mean a child is drown-proof. Nothing replaces constant supervision while kids are swimming.
Firearms are the number one cause of death of people between ages 1 and 19, according to the New England Journal of Medicine6, accounting for 20 percent of children and teen fatalities in the U.S. While gun deaths aren’t always preventable, storing your own gun properly at home will ensure your child (or anyone else, like a teen in crisis or at risk for suicide) won’t have easy access to it.
What’s the proper way to store a firearm? Follow these four rules:
Stranger danger isn’t just about a guy with a puppy in the park. In 2023, creeps are lurking on the internet, too. Explain these tips to kids if you allow them to play games online or be on social media:
FYI: Read our latest guide on keeping kids safe in cyberspace to ensure your tweens and teens remain safe in the digital age.
Another frequent kid emergency? Poisoning. Whether it be from cleaning supplies that aren't locked up, or medications that aren’t kept high enough, poisoning can happen to any child if you aren't careful.
The number one way to prevent accidental ingestion of dangerous items is to fully baby-proof your home7 and to adhere to the important steps below:
Feeling a little overwhelmed, yet? We get it; there are a lot of steps and guidelines to remember. But the good news is that these safety concerns don’t happen all at once. Tackle one issue at a time — first car seats and baby-proofing the home, then pool safety, and so on. Once you have the basics down, it’ll become second nature, and it’ll become routine for your child, too.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, Oct 14). Keep Child Passengers Safe on the Road.
National Library of Medicine. (1999, Oct 25). Helmets for preventing head and facial injuries in bicyclists.
Journal of Safety Research, Volume 59. (2016, Dec). Bicycle helmet use among persons 5 years and older in the United States, 2012.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2006, Apr). Easy Steps to Properly Fit a Bicycle Helmet.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2019, Mar 15). Swim Lessons: When to Start & What Parents Should Know.
The New England Journal of Medicine. (2022, May 19). Current Causes of Death in Children and Adolescents in the United States.
Safe Kids Worldwide. Home Safety Checklist.