House & Home

Great Gadgets to Help Keep Kids Safe

Posted September 3, 2015

Old, new, high tech, low tech, and somewhere in the middle! As the school year begins, we present 7 great gadgets to keep your children safe at home and away. Of course, no gizmo could ever substitute for one of your most important tasks as a parent … calmly and thoroughly teaching your children safety rules to follow and strategies to use.

  1. Age-Appropriate Car Safety Restraint. Few new parents are unaware of the importance of car seats. However, you may be a tad hazy about the specifics (the haziness is probably due to too many sleepless nights). Babies and toddlers must be strapped into rear-facing car seats until they reach the age of two or outgrow the manufacturer-specified maximum height. Check the car seat's expiration date -- yes, really! -- and don't buy secondhand. Don't dress your little one in bulky clothing before strapping him or her in, as it may make the harness too loose to be effective. Toddlers and preschoolers should graduate to using a forward-facing car seat till once again, they outstrip the maximum size allowed by the manufacturer. School-aged children ought to sit in a belt-positioning booster seat up to the height of 4'9"; after that, they'll be large enough to buckle into lap and shoulder seatbelts. Install any safety restraint properly and use it for every single car trip, without exception.
  2. Bicycle Helmet. A bicycle helmet will reduce the risk of brain or head injury by almost 90 percent if your son or daughter has an accident while riding their bike. Yet only about a quarter of preteens and virtually no teenagers actually wear one. To encourage this vital safety measure, buy a helmet that is well-fitting, comfortably ventilated, and decorated in an appealingly "cool" style. A magnetic clasp will reduce the possibility of pinching.
  3. Carbon Monoxide Detector. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is hard for humans to detect but very, very toxic to breathe. It's a byproduct of running fuel-burning appliances, like a gas-powered water heater or a kerosene space heater, in your home. A carbon monoxide detector, which monitors the amount of CO in the indoor air and sounds an alarm if it reaches an unsafe level, is an essential piece of household equipment to keep your whole family alive and well.
  4. Pool Alarm. Most drownings of children take place in a swimming pool, usually when a youngster enters the pool unattended. Install a pool alarm and set it whenever you leave the swimming pool area. There are various types of alarm systems, including ones which will alert you when a child enters the pool enclosure or falls into the water. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends underwater motion sensors as the most reliable.
  5. Smoke Alarm. Smoke alarms save lives, period. Install at least one on every level of your home, preferably on the upper wall or ceiling. Purchase the kind that can detect both smoldering and flaming fires, test monthly, and replace the batteries annually.
  6. Tamper-Resistant Receptacle. A tamper-resistant receptacle is an electrical outlet specially designed to protect children from shocks and burns. When curious little fingers try to stick a metal object such as a key or a fork into the receptacle, spring-loaded shutters act to block it. This device has been required by the National Electrical Code (NEC) in all new construction and home remodels since 2008. Even if your home does not fall into either of these categories, having an electrician replace your standard receptacles with tamper-resistant versions is simple and inexpensive.
  7. Wearable GPS. It's a watch, it's a phone, it's a GPS! The latest safety device for kids is a cute and colorful bracelet with a brand new twist -- it contains a GPS tracking system, so you'll know where the wearer is at all times. Some models come complete with a cellular telephone, making it ever so much easier to phone home than it was back in ET's day. However, if your children's school forbids bringing cell phones into the classroom, you can opt for a style that combines the GPS with a timepiece.

Laura Firszt writes for

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