SEARCH

Entries in Playgrounds (4)

Friday
Apr272012

How Protective Parents Imperil Kids at the Playground

Christopher Robbins/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For parents who hover, a playground can look like a very dangerous place for their kids. But medical experts warn that parental efforts to keep their young children safe often backfire -- and end up harming them instead.

Nora Abularach of New York keeps her impulses in check. On Wednesday she watched as her 2-year-old son, Sam, scurried up the ladder to a big yellow slide at a Central Park playground. Abularach remained a few feet away near the foot of the slide. Sam paused at the top for a moment, looking to his mom for reassurance. A few encouraging words later, Sam was zipping down the slide, all by himself.

The mother of two says she likes this particular playground because it is specially designed for Sam's age group. She can let him explore and tackle each new apparatus on his own.

"I try not to hover," she said. "I think it's important for him to fall once or twice; he needs to figure out his own limits."

Meanwhile, it's becoming clear that playgrounds are not what they used to be. Towns and schools across the country have been bulldozing the old metal on concrete playgrounds in exchange for softer surfaces, lower platforms and fewer moving parts. The emphasis on safe play zones for children has never been greater. But some question whether these changes are making a difference when it comes to injured kids.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that 2008 saw just over 220,000 ER visits from kids injured on playgrounds. This actually reflects a small increase from their 1999 estimate of 205,000.

The most common playground injuries requiring medical attention were fractures, bruises, cuts and sprains, which made up 85 percent of all visits. Ninety-five percent of children taken to the ER after a playground injury were treated and released.

And some parents may be surprised to learn that their efforts to keep their kids safer on the playground may actually be causing more injuries than they prevent.

A 2009 study out of Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., found that 14 percent of fractures to one of the lower leg bones, called the tibia, occurred on slides. Surprisingly, 100 percent of them happened in children who were riding down the slide on the lap of a parent. No children who slid alone sustained the injury.

The researcher, Dr. John T. Gaffney, chief of pediatric orthopedic surgery says he did this study after seeing children come into the ER one after another with a similar history and diagnosis.

"The parents were very frustrated and upset to learn that they had inadvertently contributed to their child's fracture when they thought they were helping," says Gaffney.

Some experts say cuts and scrapes, and even the broken bones will heal, but a playground's effect on a child's emotional development may be long-lasting. There are a number of critics of these new super-safe play areas.

Ellen Sandseter and colleagues from Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education in Trondheim, Norway, wrote about the effects of "safe" playgrounds and overly cautious parents on child development in a 2011 article in Evolutionary Psychology.

According to the article, a young child naturally fears the highest bar of the jungle gym or that extra twisty slide. These fears are adaptive, meaning they have a purpose, preventing them from being injured.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep272011

Pools, Playgrounds Distribute Diarrhea, Disease

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Kids love wading pools and playgrounds with sprinklers, but so do parasites.

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  links recreational water parks to a record 134 outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis in two years. That’s 13,966 cases of watery diarrhea.

Cryptosporidiosis, or crypto for short, is caused by cryptosporidium -- a microscopic parasite spread through feces. Pool and fountain water gets contaminated "when a person has a fecal incident in the water or fecal material washes off of a swimmer’s body,” the CDC report explains.

The parasite can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, dehydration and even nausea.

The outbreaks reported by the CDC occurred in 2007 and 2008 -- the most recent years for which statistics are available. The report reveals a 72 percent hike in crypto cases compared to the previous two-year period.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug152011

Filth, Fecal Matter Found in Some Fast Food Restaurant Play Areas

Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision(NEW YORK) -- The play area at your local fast food restaurant may be harboring germs and bacteria that could make your children sick.

ABC News found out about this issue from a crusading mother who is trying to get standards in place for how -- and how often -- restaurant play areas should be cleaned.

At present, the government regulates restaurants and child care facilities, but not child play areas in restaurants.

Clumps of hair, rotting food and gang graffiti were just some of the things that mother Erin Carr-Jordan says she found when she followed her toddler into a fast-food restaurant play tube.

"It was like getting hit with a brick, it was so disgusting," she told ABC’s Good Morning America. "There was filth everywhere, there was black on the walls and it was sticky and there was grime inside the connecting tubes."

A professional with a specialty in child development and four children of her own, Carr-Jordan couldn't get the filthy scene out of her mind, so she crawled into more play tubes. And when she felt restaurant managers weren't responsive to her complaints, she started taking her video camera with her, and then posting her findings on the internet.

Carr-Jordan knew the play areas looked awful, but she wanted proof they could make children sick. So she spent several thousand dollars of her own money on testing. She collected samples at nine restaurants in seven states, from McDonald's, Burger King, Chuck E. Cheese's and others. She shipped off her swabs to a certified lab.

The lab found fecal matter in eight out of the nine play areas Carr-Jordan tested -- a staggering 90 percent. Children who come into contact with those bacteria could then get sick if they touched their mouth, nose or an open wound. One restaurant play tube had more than 20 million fecal bacteria in a two-inch area.

"Where there are people, there are germs," said New York University microbiologist Dr. Philip Tierno.

ABC News asked Tierno, director of microbiology and immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center, to put Carr-Jordan's lab result into context. He said the play areas could have been worse, but there's definitely room for improvement.

"The areas where children play in those restaurants, they should be periodically sanitized -- I don't know if some of these were sanitized in a more timely fashion to have 20 million count -- but they really should be," he said.

That is precisely Carr-Jordan's point. After all, restaurant bathrooms are required by law to be cleaned regularly, but there are no clear standards for restaurant play areas.

"I don't want them to take these places away, I most certainly do not. I just want them to clean them," she said.

ABC News asked the restaurant chains for their reaction:


Statement to ABC News from Burger King:
BURGER KING® restaurant playgrounds must be cleaned and maintained in accordance with the cleaning standards in the BURGER KING® Operations Manual. These standards include procedures for daily, weekly and monthly cleaning of playground equipment. In accordance with our policy, restaurant playgrounds are also required to be cleaned by a professional cleaning service on a quarterly basis. Burger King Corp. has contacted the franchise restaurant where the sample was taken and the franchisee has confirmed they conducted a deep cleaning of the playground this month. Additionally, the franchisee is reinforcing BURGER KING®'s standards on proper cleaning and maintenance procedures with all of its staff and management team at the restaurant. - Jonathan Fitzpatrick, Chief Brand and Operations Officer for Burger King Corp.

Statement to ABC News from McDonald's:
"We put our customers first, and are taking these concerns very seriously. We've spoken with Dr. Carr-Jordan and assigned a team to review the report findings and our own existing procedures. While we have stringent sanitizing procedures for weekly, daily and even spot cleaning, we're always looking for ways to improve our standards and how they are followed at each restaurant." - Cathy Choffin, Manager of Safety and Security McDonald's USA

Statement to ABC News from Chuck E. Cheese's:
Our goal at Chuck E. Cheese's is to provide families with a wholesome, safe, entertaining experience. Cleanliness is a critical element toward meeting this goal. We have detailed step by step cleaning instruction manuals with video training in each of our entertainment centers. All existing play equipment is cleaned at least daily with Oasis 146 Multi-Quat sanitizer. Touch ups are completed throughout the day as needed. Additionally, we have Purell stations installed for our guests and employees to use. - Lois Perry VP, Advertising Chuck E. Cheese's  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul192011

Are Safety-Obsessed Playgrounds Spoiling Our Children?

Christopher Robbins/Thinkstock(TRONDHEIM, Norway) -- Current safety standards veer public playgrounds towards the benign realm of soft and cushy: sharp edges are covered, jungle gyms and monkey bars are miniaturized to reduce the height children can climb and the whole things are placed on shock-absorbent wood chips or rubber mats to cushion the blow when children inevitably fall.

But are we really doing our children any favors by taking all the risk out of playtime? Some pediatric experts are saying no -- in the pursuit of protection for our children, we have stunted their ability to fend for themselves.

In a recent paper published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, Norwegian psychologists Ellen Sandseter of Queen Maud University in Norway and Leif Kennair of the Norwegian University for Science and Technology write that "risky play" among young children is a necessary experience that helps children learn to master their environments. Protecting children from any risks in their playtime could breed children that are more likely to be anxious and afraid of danger.

"An exaggerated safety focus of children's play is problematic because while on the one hand children should avoid injuries, on the other hand they might need challenges and varied stimulation to develop normally, both physically and mentally," the authors write. "Paradoxically, we posit that our fear of children being harmed by mostly harmless injuries may result in more fearful children and increased levels of psychopathology," they add. "We might need to provide more stimulating environments for children, rather than hamper their development."

Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, says the slow disappearance of more traditional "risky" playground toys has more to do with litigation than with proven safety issues.

The gradual bubble-wrapping of public playgrounds occurred in response to growing evidence that a substantial number of injuries, some serious or fatal, were occurring on kid's playgrounds. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more 200,000 children a year go to the emergency room with playground-related injuries. Between 1990 and 2000, 147 such visits resulted in fatalities.

Further research has looked into how kids were getting hurt and what could be done to prevent it. A 2008 study published in the journal of Clinical Pediatrics found that 75 percent of injuries resulted from falls, hence current guidelines in some cities that require climbing equipment and slides be a maximum of seven feet high to reduce the chance of falling injuries.

Seesaws and merry-go-rounds were concerns for pinching injuries when children got caught underneath them and ropes posed strangulation risks, so these playthings became scarce.

So where do we draw the line between allowing children to get messy -- and perhaps a bit scuffed up -- for the sake of life experience, and protecting them from serious injuries like head trauma and broken bones? Ironically, Sandseter and Kennair note in their paper that playground injuries may have more to do with the risk-taking behavior of the child than with the equipment itself. "No matter how safe the equipment, the children's need for excitement seems to make them use it dangerously," they write.

In other words, the Evel Knievel kids that try to do backflips off the slide are going to hurt themselves no matter how much shock-absorbent padding we put down.

But this doesn't mean that that we shouldn't try to reduce the risk of serious injury, Smith says.

One of the best ways to strike the balance between safety and fun is to improve the grounds of playgrounds, he says. Making sure that surfacing under playthings is maintained and cushions the fall is a way to reduce injury severity without lessening how fun or challenging the equipment is, he says. That way, the daredevils will at least have a softer landing pad.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio