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W.A.T.C.H.’s Annual 2021 Summer Safety Report for Parents and Caregivers

W.A.T.C.H. ANNOUNCES SUMMER SAFETY TIPS TO KEEP KIDS SAFE FROM INJURIES

AS COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS ARE LIFTED

 

A TIKTOK HIGH-POWERED MAGNET TREND, PLAYGROUND HAZARDS, AND BACKYARD WATER SAFETY

TOP W.A.T.C.H.’S LIST OF 10 POTENTIAL SUMMER SAFETY CONCERNS WITH KIDS  

(Boston, MA- June 21, 2021) As COVID restrictions are lifted and the world begins to open up again, children are ready to jump into fun this summer. On this second day of summer, World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.) shares important safety information to help parents and caregivers navigate the summer safely, especially considering children’s injuries typically double over the summer months. 

Families are emerging from a year centered around home and solitary activities, and the landscape of product-related and recreational activities has changed. Some activities which slowed down during COVID, such as trips to public pools or playgrounds, may see an increase. Other activities which saw an increase in popularity during lockdown, such as backyard swimming and bicycling, will continue to play a more prominent role in families’ leisure time. Consumer Advocates Joan E. Siff, President of W.A.T.C.H., and James A. Swartz, Director of W.A.T.C.H., showcase 10 Top “Summer Safety Traps” as representative of some of the many different types of hazards families can avoid to safeguard children during the summer when kids will be spending more hours on social media platforms, swimming, and riding. (SEE ATTACHED LIST).

W.A.T.C.H. wants to keep parents and caregivers informed about some popular warm-weather activities that have been linked to devastating injuries so they can be armed with that knowledge when choosing at-home activities for children.  It is unacceptable that every year children are unnecessarily injured by defective products that are designed, manufactured or marketed improperly. “Do not be lulled into a false sense of security that a toy or activity is safe simply because it is popular,” said Swartz. For many years, W.A.T.C.H. has warned families about the catastrophic injuries associated with backyard trampolines including fractures and cervical spine trauma. Other safety hazards highlighted in this year’s Summer Safety Report include water-related safety traps and non-motorized scooters, a repeat offender associated with the most toy-related injuries. It’s no surprise with this past year’s focus on outdoor activities, hospitals have reported a rise in injuries related to trampolines and other activities taking place near home, such as biking.

Safety Spotlight: Social Media Influence — A TiKTok Trend and High-Powered Magnets

During the summer, when there may be an increase in social media use by children, watch out for potentially unsafe social media trends, such as an alleged TikTok “fake-piercing” challenge and associated high-powered magnet ingestion injuries.

With organized sports and group activities limited, the pandemic triggered a surge in the use of social media. Swartz and Siff cautioned, “The increase in social media use by kids during COVID-19 and the expected increase in social media use by children with more free time on their hands during the summer are compelling reasons to stay informed about online trends associated with injuries.” Social media is a significant influence on many children and teens. According to one study, social media use by teens jumped 63% during quarantine. Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok were the top three platforms parents were concerned about.[iii] TikTok’s popularity saw a dramatic increase in the U.S. during the pandemic, growing 180% among 15-25 year old users.[iv]

This year, high-powered magnets have resurfaced as part of a social media trend. In an alleged TikTok “fake piercing” challenge, users pretended to have tongue or cheek piercings using magnetic balls. Last month, a 13-year-old girl reportedly required major abdominal surgery to remove part of her bowel and her appendix after she accidentally swallowed fifteen magnet balls allegedly following a “fake piercing” challenge on TikTok.[v] These magnets can be eight times stronger than magnets that are used in toys. High-powered magnets are a potential safety risk to children — toddler through teen. W.A.T.C.H. has warned of the safety risk that high-powered magnets (whether or not sold as toys) pose to children in the past. Children have been hospitalized and suffered serious harm after ingesting these powerful magnets. Recently, it was reported a 2-year-old boy needed surgery after he swallowed 16 magnetic balls that his older sibling had brought back from school. The magnets stuck together after they were ingested and perforated the boy’s intestines.[vi]

Home-Based Activities: Increased Sales Could Mean Increased Injuries

With increased sales and accessibility of certain products comes a continued need for vigilance when keeping kids safe. For many, a new normal at home includes more accessibility to in-home exercise equipment or backyard pools and spas. Both categories saw an exponential leap in sales this past year.

At-Home Exercise Equipment:

During COVID-19, when gyms and group exercise classes suddenly shut down, many brought their work-outs home. As demand for home exercise options skyrocketed, sales of exercise equipment climbed a sweeping 170% during lockdown. [vii] While many may be venturing back to the gym after a long hiatus, the fact remains that many more homes have exercise equipment than before the pandemic.

This summer, exercise equipment could look enticing to kids looking for fun ways to spend their days now that school is out, but exercise equipment has the potential to be dangerous for children. At home gyms, equipped with treadmills, stationary bikes, or weightlifting racks are not toys, and parents and caretakers need to “exercise extreme caution” when it comes to keeping children away from home gyms. During the pandemic, Peloton more than quadrupled in value[viii] –but it came as a price. After at least 39 incidents and the death of a 6-year-old boy,[ix] Peloton recently recalled 125,000 Tread+ Treadmills. Multiple reports involved children becoming entrapped, pinned, and pulled under the rear roller.[x] W.A.T.C.H. reminds the families who may have increased their home-exercise option during COVID to be diligent in keeping children away from safety traps posed by some fitness equipment and to be aware of important recalls associated with serious injuries.

Backyard Pools and Spas:

With many consumers choosing to spend time outdoors near home during COVID-19, demand and sales skyrocketed for above-ground pools, in-ground pools, and spas.  Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4.[xi] Most fatal drownings take place at homes during the summer.[xii] The surge in backyard pool purchases since COVID-19[xiii]  and the number of children that drown in backyard pools each summer highlights the importance of raising awareness about water safety this summer.

(Shallow Water Diving) An increase in the number of people with access to pools near home, could correlate with an increase in water-related incidents, such as shallow water diving injuries. Adding to the importance of awareness about diving injuries this summer is also the drastic increase in boating, an attractive socially-distanced activity during COVID. Many boat showrooms have little, if no, inventory. People have been injured diving into obstructed or shallow water off of boas. In an instant, a single dive can permanently change a life. Diving is the fifth leading cause of spinal cord injuries for men and women.[xiv] Many children and adults do not know the risks of diving into shallow and/or unsafe waters that can lead to catastrophic head and neck injury and even death. Raising awareness about the injuries that have resulted from diving into pools or off boats into shallow water  can save lives.

(Lifeguard Shortage) The pool- and spa-buying frenzy brought on by families social distancing means there are more options than ever for kids to cool down in their or a neighbor’s backyard. Lifeguards may be in scarce supply due to delays in training and other pandemic-related trickle effects. The pandemic has exacerbated a serious lifeguard shortage. Whether you are looking for a lifeguard for a child’s backyard birthday pool party, or counting on the lifeguard chairs to be filled at your local beach, a lifeguard shortage is raising red flags.

(Lesser-Known Water Hazards) Beware of some of the lesser-known backyard water safety traps to help keep kids safe. Young children can drown in shallow water (less than 2 inches). W.A.T.C.H. is alerting parents to be vigilant when kids are near water. “One of our goals today is to be proactive and raise awareness about water safety, including those hazards that may not be widely known such as water rings that can flip over trapping a child