Child Safety: How to Avoid Injuries From Toppling TVs

Flat-screen TVs may be thin, but they're getting larger and larger. When not secured properly, they can pose a health risk to kids.

toddler grabbing for tv on stand

Medically reviewed in May 2022

Updated on May 9, 2022

Unintentional injuries are far and away the leading cause of death among kids in the United States. And every year, emergency room doctors like me see countless bike accidents, falls, motor vehicle crashes, and pedestrian accidents, among other incidents.

Also part of this mix is a frightening number of children who are hurt at home by falling TVs. You may wonder, how does that happen?

My patient’s story
It was a regular shift in the ER. I was trying to catch up on my computer charting when I looked up to see a mother running inside, carrying what looked like a limp and unresponsive toddler. The nurse ran behind her, directing them into the nearest exam room.

While we hurried to connect the toddler to the monitors, I asked what had happened. “I had put my son in the bedroom to watch TV,” the mom explained. “I’d just walked into another room when I heard a crash. I found my son stuck underneath the dresser that he must have pulled over. It had the TV on top of it.”

The story is all too familiar to any ER doctor. Children under age 5 are most likely to be injured in this way. But it’s not just toddlers and preschoolers. Kids through age 17 have also been involved in these kinds of accidents. In fact, since 2000, more than 330 kids under age 18 have been killed by tip-overs involving TVs, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And each year, about 10,000 children under age 18 are injured.

What’s behind this preventable tragedy? For one thing, the number of TVs per household has increased. Though they appear to be thinner, flatscreens can still be quite heavy. And as for those old, boxy sets, where do they go after you get your shiny new TV? Often, up on any old bookshelf or dresser—maybe a bit more out of sight and parental supervision. 

What’s more, furniture with drawers can represent a great “ladder.” Toddlers pull out the drawers and step into them, putting themselves more at risk with every step. 

How to prevent tip-overs
So, what can a parent or caregiver do to avoid such accidents?

  1. Anchor it. Bolt both the TV and the furniture that is underneath it to the wall. You can buy fasteners at home construction or electronic stores.
  2. Use the right base. Keep TVs off dressers, armoires, and bookshelves not intended to support these electronics; they are more at risk of toppling.
  3. Keep it low. Children like to climb on furniture. If you keep all TVs on sturdy, low bases, you remove much of the incentive to climb.

So, what happened with my little patient? He slowly started to wake up and a CT scan showed that he had a skull fracture. We admitted him to our children’s hospital and over time he was able to recuperate. Fortunately, he’s now back to normal. Needless to say, his mother has made sure that this type of accident will never happen again in her home.

Like many parents, you’ve probably given little thought to where you park those heavy old TV sets. Take the steps today to keep your children safe from this surprising safety hazard. For more information, go to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission site (cpsc.gov) and visit the Tip-Over Information Center.

Article sources open article sources

MedlinePlus. Death among children and adolescents. August 29, 2020. Accessed May 5, 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Injuries Among Children and Teens. September 22, 2021. Accessed May 5, 2022.
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC.gov). Tip-over Information Center. 2022. Accessed May 5, 2022.
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC.gov). CPSC Injury and Fatality Report Shows, Despite Some Progress, Need for TV and Furniture Tip-Over Prevention Remains Strong. February 3, 2022. Accessed May 5, 2022.
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC.gov). Product Instability or Tip-Over Injuries and Fatalities Associated with Televisions, Furniture, and Appliances: 2021 Report. February 2022. Accessed May 5, 2022.
Safe Kids Worldwide. Safe Kids U.S. Summer Safety Ranking Report. May 2007. Accessed May 5, 2022.

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