You’re concerned because your kids spend a lot of time indoors, playing with their electronic gadgets and phones, so much that eye contact is as rare as a dinner without texting.
It’s not like your kids aren’t active. Your son plays basketball with a local sports organization and your daughter takes gymnastics lessons because she wants to be a cheerleader when she’s in junior high. But you’d like to find something that’s not competitive, something without practice times and schedules, something that’s just fun in your own backyard. You want a physical fitness activity that the whole family can enjoy. You think, why not a trampoline? But you have concerns as to whether they are safe for kids.
Are Trampolines Safe for Kids?
What the American Academy of Pediatrics Says
The American Academy of Pediatrics is okay with limited use of trampolines in training programs for gymnastics and diving, as long as there’s adult supervision and strict safety guidelines. But they don’t recommend using a trampoline for fun. You wonder you your child has to be a gymnast or diver to jump on a trampoline, but it looks like trampolines are out.
How About Bike Riding?
Okay, so much for something the family can do together—wait, what about bike riding? That’s great for exercise, and when you were a kid, you rode your bike all over town.
But, according to data obtained by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2005, 485,669 kids ended up in the emergency room as a result of bicycle mishaps, even more than the number of kids injured while playing football.
Scratch bicycle riding.
How About Swimming?
Maybe you should put in a pool so that the family can stay in shape by swimming. It seems a little expensive, and the maintenance isn’t something you’re looking forward to, but if it means keeping your kids safe and physically fit, it’s worth it.
Except that accidents caused by swimming and diving can cause head and spinal cord injuries, not to mention the pool accidents suffered by 82,300 kids who ended up in the ER.
How About What Other Activities Your Kids Are Doing Now?
Maybe you’d better just stick with what your kids are already doing, basketball and gymnastics.
Except that, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, cheerleading is the sport that’s most injury-prone for girls. This is confirmed by an Ohio State University study which shows that nearly 27,000 gymnasts ended up in the hospital each year.
Now that you’re ready to pull your daughter out of gymnastics, you decide to check that it’s all right for your son to play basketball. That’s when you find out that more than half a million kids end up in the ER each year from playing basketball, where they run the risk of damaging the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL.
So What Are the Choices?
All the physical activities that you’ve read about also involve the risk of a trip to the ER. But you’ve also read about the rising rate of obesity and you’ve seen the statistics. The obesity rate in 2014 is almost triple what it was in 1963, when kids were more active playing pick-up games of baseball and kickball, riding bikes, climbing trees, and playing outside with the other kids in the neighborhood from the moment they got home from school until it was dark. You can’t remember if there were any studies back then saying that these activities were unsafe, but everyone did them.
You’ve read that childhood obesity is the major health threat facing kids, even more threatening than smoking and drug use. You’ve read how overweight kids are facing health issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes that in the past didn’t show up until adulthood. And you don’t even want to think about what being overweight does to a child’s confidence or how it might lead to severe emotional problems, such as depression.
So what are the choices? It seems that whether your kids are physically active or couch potatoes, they’re going to end up in the hospital. Isn’t there a middle ground?
Back to that trampoline research. What did the research say about trampolines? They’re okay for use in training programs, as long as long as there’s supervision and strict safety guidelines. What if the adults set up rules and make sure that the equipment is safe and well maintained?
Doing your research makes a trampoline seem like less of a threat. The AAP notes that trampoline-related injury has declined since 2004. That’s good news. The AAP has some suggestions on how to make trampolines safer. Safety nets, which are part of the reason for the lower incidence of risk, are typically sold along with trampolines. But the AAP warns that the net can create a false sense of security unless parents establish firm rules for trampoline users. So the answer is to set rules.
The best place for trampoline jumping is in the center. There is only one center. Therefore, there can only be one person using the trampoline at a time. You can strictly enforce this rule by warning your kids that if they violate it, they will lose the use of their cell phones until they finish their PhD dissertation at Harvard. The thought of all those years of education should be an effective deterrent to disobeying the “one center spot, one kid” rule.
Except that they won’t be violating the rule, because there will always be adult supervision while kids are on the trampoline. This is the rule that you need to make and keep. You can make sure that everyone takes their turn on the trampoline, and they can all enjoy the fun while Mom and Dad, or even Grandma and Grandpa, line up to take a turn. It’s a chance to enjoy the family time that you want to share.
Another one of your responsibilities is to make sure that the safety enclosure is properly installed. You’ll need to check it regularly to ensure that there are no signs of wear and tear. Also keep an eye on the padding so that the springs and frame don’t pose a risk for the kids. The safety netting isn’t for kids to climb, so that’s a rule that also needs to be strictly enforced.
The easiest way to make sure that rules are followed is to keep them simple and straightforward. Post the rules so that they’re in plain sight.
Trampoline Safety for Kids
- Only one jumper at a time on the trampoline.
- Children under age 6 should not be allowed on the trampoline.
- No somersaults, tricks, or flips; those kinds of activities require more advanced training and supervision.
- An adult will always be present to supervise and enforce the safety rules.
- Trampolines must be well maintained with protective padding and a safety net enclosure to reduce the risk of injury.
Keeping your kids safe is a vital responsibility for parents. But it’s also important for children to heed the rules that can keep them from harm. By teaching your child to obey the guidelines that you enforce, you’re helping to create a responsible adult who can both meet a challenge and recognize limitations. You can’t always be there when your child is faced with a challenge, but you can nurture a foundation for sound judgment that recognizes the difference between a dangerous risk and reaching personal potential.