Monday, August 27, 2007

The Blame Game

Everywhere I look, I see more and more stories about a child who was injured or even died from playing with a toy that contained a magnet. Accompanying these stories and accounts is information on the recent recalls from Mattel, which is causing truckloads of panicked parents to empty out their toy boxes, clean out their closets and go through every single storage bin in their children's rooms - I am not separating myself from this group.

But at what point do we need to stop blaming the toy makers, the importers and the government (and I am NOT declaring that either one of these players is perfect and faultless in their practices) and start taking a cold, hard look at what we let our kids play with?

I think that it comes down to the fact that anything can be a potential hazard. Anything. Even those organic, chemical-free dolls made of hemp. Given the right circumstance, say a busy parent who gives a doll like that to a very young child, I am sure a button can pop off and choke the little girl "playing" with it.

At which point, I would ask, who are you going to blame?

Do you contact a lawyer and sue the toy company that made the toy? Do you bring a lawsuit against the store where it was purchased? Or do you simply say, hmmmm, maybe I shouldn't have let a 2-year-old play with a doll like that. Or maybe I should be paying more attention to how she is playing with the doll if I do.

Believe me, I know how this feels.

My sons are 5 and 6 &1/2 years older than their little sister, which means that there are tons of toys not suited for children under 3 in our house. When Katie started becoming mobile and getting into things, I warned them that they had better keep their Legos, Hot Wheels, marbles and other little things up and off the floor and better yet, in their room behind a baby gate, or else I would remove them myself and they wouldn't see them again.

Of course the day came when my guard was down. I was distracted by laundry and didn't notice the balls belonging to their Magnetix sets on the floor of our family room. Before I knew it, Katie had them in her mouth and they were swallowed. This was a few years ago, before the huge Magnetix recall and the subsequent death of a local toddler who swallowed 2 of the magnetic pieces.

We were so lucky. All we had to do was visit the doctor, have an x-ray and then wait for the balls to make their way through my tiny daughter's system.

But who's fault was all of this?


Accidents happen around every turn when you are parenting a child. There are the types you can try to avoid (by investing in and using the appropriate baby-proofing products and techniques), and there are those that cannot be foreseen, like a seemingly safe toy breaking and becoming a choking hazard. But the bottom line is, there is some kind of hazard and risk involved in almost everything. Why do we focus all of our energy and attention on blaming someone else instead of trying to do better, promising to change our buying habits or simply paying attention to what our kids are playing with?

Of course, I don't mean to trivialize the seriousness of someone losing a child in a situation like this. But if a 7-year-old child puts a toy in her mouth and accidentally swallows the pieces later resulting in surgical removal of the pieces, why is the toy manufacturer held responsible? A 7-year-old could just as easily put a rock in his mouth and swallow it. Then what?

Magnets are an incredibly useful learning medium, used in several science lessons in public school classrooms. They are allowed because a certain amount of maturity is assumed to be present in the children to whom these lessons are geared. Teachers aren't expecting a 2nd-grader to put a magnet in his/her mouth. Teachers shouldn't be held responsible if a child does. It would be an accident.

I agree that we need to be more vigilant with what our kids play with. I agree that the age recommendations put on the toy boxes for our safety need to be followed. I agree that we need high standards for all toys played with by all children of the world. I agree that lead paint should never even be considered acceptable. I agree that cancer-causing agents need to be left out of our kid's shampoo. I agree that magnets are dangerous, especially in toys that fall apart and especially when played with by younger children than they are intended to be played with.

I am just sick of people blaming others for accidents.


Left Coast Sister said...

Interesting post. I agree that parents need to be staking out their territory for the safety of their kids instead of plotting for their next lawsuit. But coals on the heads of the people who cut corners in the production of (what we thought were) quality toys just to eek out a few more bucks. They should be ashamed to produce something that portrays quality and safety but is neither of those things.

pinks & blues girls said...

I agree, we live in such a litigious society, always blaming someone for everything that happens.

Sometimes people just don't want to admit that they dropped the ball.

Jane, P&B Girls

Rock the Cradle said...

You've said a mouthful. The Blame Game starts with toys, then grows up to do damage in other ways.

It's why OB/GYNs are so rare in Philadelphia now. They're being forced out by insanely high insurance rates that are pumped up by frivolous law-suits.

I'm not going to get on my soap box about it now, though.

Nope. Not me.

jen said...

it's a fine line, isn't it...unknowingly exposing our kids to dangerous things because corporations thought making a buck was more important than safety and the completely rabid lack of responsibility in our society.

there is a line there. and we've gone over to the entitlement side in this country in just about every way possible.

Redneck Mommy said...

I agree that ultimately parents are responsible to provide safe toys for their children.

However, toy manufacturers are responsible for providing safe merchandise to sell to consumers.

Parents really need to be more diligent in light of the recent toy scandal.

But sometimes, an accident is just an accident. And suing manufacturers to make one feel less responsible or to gain wealth at the expense of a victim is reprehensible to me.

That said, I hope the toy businesses clean up their acts...quickly.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

I am with you on this...sometimes it is nothing more than that....a tragic accident!

Of course....that is easy for me to I have not lost a child due to something like this!

Sometimes we have to take responsibility for our shortcomings....LORD knows I have enough of them to go around!

AmandaD said...

Thank you. I am sure this was tough to write, it was tough to read. But damnit, we have a job to do as parents, so yes, more vigilance at home. I also believe in continued pressure on manufacturers and retailers to be accountable, at least for their part.

Kyla said...

Exactly what Redneck Mommy said.