Keeping children safe from electric shocks
The good news is that children are at very little risk from electric shocks. But electrical appliances can be dangerous in other ways. Old appliances and children playing with electric appliances can cause burns and fires.
Did you know…?
- You can often tell if your appliances or sockets are dangerous just by looking at them. Keep an eye out for frayed wires, or scorch marks on the socket or wire.
- Sockets are designed so that it's almost impossible for your child to stick their fingers, or even a knitting needle in. But it is quite easy for children to ‘play grown-up’ and plug in your hair straighteners or iron.
- Heating appliances like electric fires and kettles tend to use a lot more power than things like TVs and lights. Too many plugged into one socket could cause a fire.
Safety reminders – how to keep children safe from electrical dangers
General electrical safety tips
With electrical appliances there are some tips that will be relevant no matter how old your child is. Whether you have a baby, toddler, or seven-year-old, the steps below can help you to prevent electrical fires.
Unplug any electrical devices that get hot, like hair straighteners and irons, as soon as you’ve finished with them. That way there’s no risk of fire.
Safety-check your appliances to see if they’re up to the job. If there are any problems then you’ll probably see frayed wires or scorched sockets.
One plug per socket. Extensions can help you to run more appliances at once, but they can be dangerous. Try not to overload plug sockets, especially with more power-hungry appliances like kettles and irons.
‘Bar’ vs ‘block’. If you’re using a socket extension, some are better than others. The ‘bar’ type, where plugs sit in a line, puts less strain on the socket than a ‘block’ type. ‘Block’ types, where plugs are all attached in a clump, are more likely to strain the socket and cause fires.
Turn appliances off before you go to bed. Did you know that mobile phone chargers, if left plugged in, can overheat and cause a fire? Unless it’s designed to stay on overnight (like a freezer) turn it off and unplug it at the mains.
They’re old enough to understand simple instructions, but toddlers don’t really understand the idea of ‘danger’. This, plus the fact that they’re very inquisitive, means that it’s best to keep dangerous electrical objects well out of their reach.
Electrical devices can be fascinating, especially if Mum and Dad use them! Put devices away in a cupboard or on a high shelf so they won’t be able to reach them and plug them in.
Electric sockets are less dangerous than you might think. They’re designed to prevent toddlers (and anyone else) getting shocks, so they’re quite safe. You do not need socket covers to make them safe, but they might stop young children plugging in appliances that can cause a fire. However, it’s much safer to put appliances away rather than rely on socket covers.
3-5 year olds
As children get older, they get more adventurous! The difference with slightly older children, though, is that they can start to learn what is and isn’t dangerous.
Keep up the good habits! 3-5 year olds are at a similar risk from electrical burns and shocks as younger children and babies. So if you found the reminders for babies and toddlers useful, they’re still relevant as your children get older.
Good habits are hard to break. 3-5 year olds can learn basic safety messages. Telling them to stay away from electric sockets and not to play with appliances can be helpful. They won’t remember all the time, but it can get them into good habits for the future.
Water and electricity don’t mix. Although a survey done in 2007 showed that 1 in 3 parents don’t think their children know this! If you let children know about the danger they’re less likely to make mistakes.
5-7 year olds
Children between 5-7 can be given a bit more responsibility. Giving them safety lessons can be fun for them as well as for you, and it helps them to develop their memory skills. Don’t expect them to remember everything, but they should be able to understand common dangers, if they’re taught.
Teaching children how they can keep themselves safe can be really rewarding. They should still be supervised if they’re using electrical appliances, but you can expect them to understand some of the risks.
Responsibility can be a scary word even for adults! Although young children can start learning how their actions affect others, they’re not quite ready for the responsibility of looking after their brothers and sisters, especially if there are electrical appliances in the room.
Toys that are electrically operated are designed to ensure that there is virtually no danger of electrocuting anyone.
8-11 year olds
At this age, all children should be ready for more responsibility. Most can decide whether a situation is ‘safe’ or ‘dangerous.’
Learning by doing. Older children can practise using appliances on their own. Why not ask them to warm something in the microwave, make toast, or even cook a simple meal? If they can do it safely under your watchful eye they’ll know how to do it safely on their own.