'Don’t take your eyes off your kids in the playground'

Beterem warns that 40% of young children injured in playgrounds had no proper adult supervision.

playground 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
playground 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Forty percent of the young children injured in playgrounds had no proper adult supervision, according to Beterem – The National Center for Children’s Safety and Health, which next week is sponsoring a media campaign to increase awareness of the dangers.
The campaign, called “Eyes Open Wide; Don’t Take Your Eyes Off Children in the Playground,” is aimed at reducing the number of child accidents near the home, especially in playgrounds, when the school vacation begins.
The non-profit organization said on Thursday that falling is the most common injury of this type (40%), followed by being hit by an object (28%), being cut or stabbed by an object (9.5%), being caught in an object (9.5%), choking (5%) and burns (2%). The most dangerous object causing injuries were slides (49%), seesaws (31%), and trampolines (6%), with other injuries from ladders, exercise equipment, climbing installations, inflated devices and carousels. Ages birth to four were the most dangerous.
Although playgrounds are supposed to be pure fun and good for muscular and motor development, their use entails risk if children are not properly supervised there, said Beterem. But many of playgrounds, which are the responsibility of municipalities and other authorities, are not safe, especially if they are poorly maintained and do not meet official standards. Young children have very little ability to recognize dangerous situations in playgrounds.
A Beterem study between 2001 and 2008 of hospital emergency room data on child injuries found that almost a third of the playground injuries resulted from the absence of adults; in a fifth of cases, an adult was present but did not pay attention; in 43% of cases, the adult saw the child but did not or was unable to prevent the injury. The most deadly injuries resulted from the child’s neck or head being caught in a playground installation, but the most frequent causes of injuries was from falls. Boys were involved in 54% of the injuries.
The older the children – even if they were only five years old – the less likely they were to be supervised by an adult.
While the playground installations were used by 60% of the children, the rest ran, played ball or tag, rode bicycles, sat or walked. Of those observed on installations, a third played in an unsafe way or on an installation not suited to the child’s age. Climbing slides and going in the opposite direction was regarded as dangerous, as was climbing on installations not meant for that purpose. Some children impatient with queues pushed others, causing injury, while others were hurt by choking on food while playing.
Beterem urges parents and child-minders to examine playground facilities before letting children play, to make sure they are safe and suitable to their ages. If not, report this to the municipality.
Choose installations that are in the shade, as many are made of metal that can cause burns to skin in hot sun.
Stay close to and within constant visual contact of all children under the age of four. Do not allow them to play if they have strings, long hair, baggy pants or other objects that can get caught.
Don’t let children use installations for a purpose they were not meant to be used for. By law – albeit often not observed – all installations must have a sign stating the ages appropriate for them. Do not let children use them if they are broken or rusty.
Some local authorities, including those in Netanya, Herzliya, Hod Hasharon, Rishon Lezion, Bat Yam, Ashdod, Dimona, Beersheba, Katzrin and Hatzor in the Galilee have arranged for volunteers to hand out informative folders on playgrounds on site. For more information and a quiz on playground safety, see www.beterem.org.