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The Dangers of Pinterest

Jun 30, 2015

I’ll admit I’m no Martha Stewart. Do-It-Yourself? Not in my case.

But something about Pinterest sucks me in. All those home improvement ideas and crafty projects. I see outfits I’d like for myself, or activities I want to try with my 3-year-old triplets. I feel some mommy guilt – maybe I should be making those pillowcase dresses with matching shoes. I also feel some budget guilt – could I save a little money by making those pillowcase dresses with matching shoes?

A mixture of all that keeps me coming back. Pinterest has about 48 million users, so I know I’m not alone. What may make me different from the run-of-the-mill user, though, is that I am a childhood injury researcher. And in that role, I have a problem with Pinterest. I see ideas for children that are completely unsafe for them. Those usually come in three categories:

  • Recalled Items. The federal government pulls these items off the market because of some risk. For example, I have noticed PeaPod Travel Tents pinned in many places. The version made before 2012 was recalled because infants and young children could become trapped and even suffocate in the tents (read the entire recall notice here). The company behind them offered a fix for the tents, and the beds on the market now are clearly marked for children 1-3 years old, not infants. However, that’s not clear on Pinterest. Plenty of other recalled items are “pinned” too.
  • DIY Projects. Bunk beds, diaper changing tables, stuffed animals and countless other products have to meet legal safety standards before a business can sell them (and even then, they can be recalled). Homemade versions don’t have to meet any. If the eyes on stuffed animals aren’t attached the right way, they become choking hazards for young children. Bunk bed guard rails have to be of specific dimensions to make sure children cannot be trapped in gaps. The do-it-yourself projects often ignore those details.
  • Recycling or “Upcycling.” Upcycling is taking a product and “improving” it. An old baby pacifier looks so much better bedazzled with stick-on jewels, right? Some people on Pinterest think so, without realizing that anyone young enough to use a pacifier is young enough to choke on stick-on jewels. Beyond that, changing a product may mean that it no longer meets safety standards and some recycled or vintage baby products may have once been considered safe but no longer are.

I am not sure of solutions to all of these problems – yet. If you’re a parent who uses Pinterest, check www.Recalls.gov to see if any product being recommended has been recalled. Otherwise, for now, it helps to know that a do-it-yourself project may look cute or useful for your children, but that does not mean it will be safe.

Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital
For more safety tips, click here.

Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Lara McKenzie, PhD, MA
Center for Injury Research and Policy

Lara B. McKenzie, PhD, is a principal investigator in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital and an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, College of Medicine and the Division of Epidemiology, College of Public Health at The Ohio State University. 

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.