March 2nd, 2009
03:29 PM ET

Booster seat battles when she’s not a baby any more

By Jo Parker
CNN.com producer video/news

“Keep your kids in booster seats until they are 4-foot-9 and 60 pounds.”

Finally, vindication in the form of a public service announcement. I’ll take support anyplace I can get it!

As my daughter got closer to 8 years old, I’d felt increasing pressure from other parents to ditch her booster seat and let her ride with just an adult seat belt. “None of her friends will be in a booster seat,” they warned. “Will she be using a booster seat on dates?”

Is it just me, or does that sound an awful lot like, “C’mon! All the kids are doing it!”?

We’ve faced the pressure before. First to give her solids before she was 6 months old. (“Will she be breastfeeding in kindergarten?”) Then to turn her car seat to face forward before she was 20 pounds. (“How can she enjoy the ride if she can’t SEE?”) Then to let her play outside without a parent. (“But she’ll be with other kids – they can watch each other!”)

Now that she’s 8, state laws no longer protect her in the car seat department. No state insists that a parent measure an 8-year-old to ensure an adult belt fits properly (over the hips, not tummy and across the shoulder, not neck).

However, many of those states don’t even mandate that children ride in the back seat, even though the risks of that are well documented – and automakers post warnings about the dangers of children riding in the front seat right on the sun visors of vehicles.

Don't get me wrong - I know that adults around today survived without car seats. My childhood trips were spent sandwiched between brothers Roger and Mike trying desperately not to vomit while breathing in cigarette fumes. The one trip I didn't spend vomiting was when four of us rode from Illinois to Florida in the back of a pickup truck.

I’d looked at research by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that showed kids in booster seats had 59 percent fewer injuries than children using just seat belts.

And my daughter is on the small side, just under 50 inches tall and 45 pounds. She’ll be in that booster seat for a long time to come.

During those years, I guess we’ll be wrestling with when it’s OK to drop her off at a movie, leave the building when she’s at ballet practice and let her go to a boy-girl party. And don’t get me started on dating.

I’ll try really hard to not criticize parents who aren’t as conservative on these issues as I am, and I hope they’ll give me the same latitude (and, maybe, a bit less attitude?) as I keep her a bit closer to the nest.

What about your kids? Do you think it’s worth risking social stigma to keep them in booster seats until seat belts fit properly? Or are parents like me just being too overprotective?

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soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Tam C

    I completely agree with you. Seat belts are not designed for small children. You shouldn't let what other parents think/do interfere with your child's safety.

    March 2, 2009 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. mariquita

    Since it's a safety issue, and your child hasn't quite matched the size required for a safety belt to fit properly, I say, buck the unsolicited advice and keep her in the booster seat.

    She is your child, first and foremost – not the child of all these well-meaning others. Keep her safe as you see fit.

    p/s – just wait till the darling is old enough to drive; then you will know what real parental nerves are. 🙂

    March 3, 2009 at 02:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Dawn Ginese R.N.

    Enjoyed your blog about booster seat use. Don't fret, your children will get over your "protective" parenting skill in areas of health and safety. My three children are all grown-ups and they survived my diligent parenting skills motivated by love. Parents know better...keep the confidence.
    For Healthy Children, Ms. Dawn, The Singing Nurse

    March 3, 2009 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. aubrin miale

    Nope, I think that you're a terrific parent who has your child's safety first and foremost. It also sets a good example to your child that you're not going to cave in to peer pressure. You look at the stats and talk to a physical therapist, who will stay that the height recommendations are there for a good reason– to reduce leg injury. As parents it is our job to make informed decisions to the best of our ability in the best interest of our children.

    March 3, 2009 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Erin

    The seatbelt cuts into my neck instead of falling across my shoulders, because I am petite. But I am also 32 years old, and I will not be using a booster seat. Although if I go by the recommended standards, my daughter will be nearly in Jr. High before she gets out of hers. I would never criticize the choices you make with your child- only you know what is right for you. But making blanket statements about how seatbelts "should" fit are just stupid- its not going to fit a 5' tall 105lb woman the same way it fits a 6'5" 250lb man. Parents just need to use a little common sense.

    March 4, 2009 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Bill

    If you have to write a blog and ask everyone else if what you are doing is ok, you're probably doing it wrong.

    You need to balance your desire to protect with common sense. Also, if you insist on letting her ride in a stupid booster seat, then PLEASE do her the favor of making it very discreet ONLY when around her friends. Of course, this would require you to think about how your actions affect other people.

    I am not implying that you need to impress an 8 year old's friends, but why not avoid the embarassment? Unless of course you think that embarassing your child when it can be easily avoided is a good thing, in which case you probably are experiencing the early onset of Munchaesen Syndrome (sorry for the spelling).

    I'll tell you what, if my mom made me wear one until I didn't need it anymore I would have simply went dead-weight on her. If she wanted me in that booster seat she would have had to put me in it herself with no help from me. But whatever, my mom wasn't over protective and I made it out just fine. Military man and everything.

    Too long didnt read version: Common sense dictates most decisions. Notice I said most. Having to ask for advice when you are so adamant about your position says something. I don't know what, but it says something. I'd suggest figuring that out, then worrying about the emboosterment seat.

    March 5, 2009 at 23:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Shelly

    I'm a pretty short woman and didn't reach 4'9" until 8th or 9th grade. When I see the signs for children to stay in booster seats until they reach that height it makes me laugh – it's just ridiculous. Parents should use common sense and not blanket rules to raise their children. Each child is going to develop in their own way and needs to be brought up accordingly. If you are so concerned about the seat belt, I hope you are also concerned about driving safely – following all safety rules. I can't tell you how many times I've been nearly run over by a car whose driver was carrying a baby or child in the backseat.

    March 12, 2009 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Elizabeth

    The fact of the matter is that children do not fit an adult seat belt....hence the "adult" part. The literature shows that children don't begin to fit the seat belt correctly until 148cm with a seated height of 74cm (National Hiqhway Traffic Safety Association). What is safe for your child should have nothing to do with embarrassment. How "embarrassed" would you be if your child was killed or seriously injured because they weren't in a booster seat? Many countries in Europe require children to be in booster seats until 12 years old, with height limits ranging from 135cm to 150cm. Laws are always changing to reflect best practice based on current research. I don't think the safety of your child should come second to anything....especially embarrassment!!!

    August 26, 2009 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Sandra Rosen

    You are right seatbelts are not for small children. For child safety we should use booster seats.

    March 12, 2019 at 01:58 | Report abuse | Reply

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