Keeping Kids Safe Around Exercise Equipment
None of us knows the exact circumstances surrounding 4-year-old Exodus Tyson's death yesterday: As was widely reported, the child, daughter of former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, somehow became entangled in a cord attached to a treadmill and was strangled.
As many have noted, Exodus Tyson's death is a reminder that home exercise equipment and kids don't mix. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says about 25,000 children under 14 a year suffer exercise-equipment-related injury. Tread burns and smashed fingers (from being swept by the belt into the machinery) are common; but strangulations are almost unheard of. Safety tips posted on a Consumer Reports blog today focus on the obvious steps such as keeping kids away from exercise equipment both when it's in use and when it's not and being sure to unplug the machine after use.
But here's the thought that keeps nagging at me. How in the world could this specific accident have befallen a 4-year-old? And could closer supervision have prevented it?
That's a very delicate question. By the time our kids are 4, we parents generally feel safe giving them a bit of freedom in our own homes, says Kyran Quinlan, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital. "The need to supervise is greatest for the youngest kids," explains Quinlan, who chose his words carefully so as to avoid any suggestion of blame in the face of such a horrific event. "As kids get older, we all let up our guard, especially as we feel comfortable in the environment. In our homes we have a real sense of what is safe and what isn't safe.
"Toddlers are so curious and physically capable, everyone's guard is up as we help navigate the world with the toddler and keep her safe," Quinlan continues. "As they approach pre-school, though, we let them try out the world a little bit in safe ways. Children learn in that way, and they need some freedom to learn.
"This," Quinlan adds, "is the parent's dilemma, the challenge of allowing a child a little bit of freedom as they grow and hoping they are safe."
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