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Talking about Safety is not Enough:
Parents Must Role-Model Safe Behavior for their Children

By SAFE KIDS Campaign

To raise safe children, parents themselves must proactively role model safe behavior -- something they're not consistently doing, according to new research released today by the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and Johnson & Johnson.

The research found that while 98% of parents agree it is important they are role models for safe behavior for their children, the percentage of parents who report actually practicing safe behaviors is often lower. In addition, children with parents whose actions reinforce their words appear more likely to practice safe behaviors.

"Parents can't expect much from their children, when their message is 'do as I say, not as I do,'" says Martin Eichelberger, M.D., president and CEO of the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and director of Emergency Trauma Services at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "Children learn best when messages are reinforced by role models. If parents aren't willing to follow their own rules, children are more likely to break the rules as well. Parents need to provide consistency between their words and actions."

The SAFE KIDS / Johnson & Johnson research revealed parents cannot expect their children to adopt safe behaviors if they do not follow their own rules. For example, while 78% of parents say it is extremely or very important their child always wear a bike helmet, only 25% of parents always wear one themselves. This may be why only 40% of children say they wear a helmet.

In addition, while 86% of parents say it is extremely or very important their child always wear life jackets, only 39% of parents say they always do so themselves. The result? Only 57% of children say they always wear a life jacket which may be due to this "do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do parenting".

The research was released today by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona and Dr. Eichelberger, a pediatric trauma surgeon, to launch National SAFE KIDS Week -- April 30 to May 7, 2005 -- a weeklong, nationwide, public education campaign. This year's theme is Follow The Leader: Safety Starts With You.

The report, "Follow The Leader: A National Study of Safety Role Modeling Among Parents and Children," includes nationally representative surveys of parents (of children 8 to 14 years) and a child (within the same age bracket from each parent's household) to determine knowledge, attitudes and behaviors concerning helmet, life jacket, pedestrian and safety belt safety. An observational study also was conducted to gather more information on pedestrian safety. Unintentional injury is the number one killer of children ages 14 and under.

The research found that telling children what to do is not enough. Parents must also practice good safety behaviors to effectively teach kids how to be safe.

For example, parents do a good job of both stressing the importance of safety belt use with their children and also of being good examples (86%) by wearing safety belts themselves. This may explain near-universal safety belt use among children -- 91% of children say they always wear a safety belt.

But while parents do a good job with respect to safety belt use, the research shows that parents are much less successful at being good role models for their children in other key safety areas such as wearing a bike helmet, wearing a life jacket, and safely crossing busy streets. It is important for parents to understand the risks related to these activities as well because:

*Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1 to 14; *Bicycles are associated with more childhood injuries than any other consumer product except the automobile; and, *Pedestrian injury remains the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 5 to 14.

While 93% of parents say it is extremely or very important their child always use a crosswalk to cross a busy street, only 68% say they always cross a busy street at an intersection. Accordingly, only 74% of children say they always cross a busy street at an intersection.

It also is important to note that children notice when their parents are not following their own rules. Seventeen percent of children say they have had to remind their parents to wear a bicycle helmet and 24% of children say they are more likely to cross a busy street in the middle of a block if they are with their mother or father.

For more information or for a copy of the SAFE KIDS/Johnson & Johnson Follow the Leader: A National Study of Safety Role Modeling Among Parents and Children, contact the National SAFE KIDS Campaign at (202) 662-0600 or visit www.safekids.org.

The omnibus polls were conducted by Harris Interactive Inc. online from December 21, 2004 to January 3, 2005 with a confidence level of +/- 5 percent, 5 times out of 100. The sample was drawn from the Harris Poll Online database. 1,221 U.S. parents of children ages 8-14 years as well as randomly selected children completed the survey. Data were weighted to represent U.S. parents of 8-14 year-olds on key demographic variables such as age, gender, household income, race/ethnicity, education and region.

The National SAFE KIDS Campaign is the first and only national nonprofit organization dedicated solely to the prevention of unintentional childhood injury the number one killer of children ages 14 and under. More than 300 state and local SAFE KIDS coalitions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico comprise the Campaign.

Johnson & Johnson, with approximately 110,600 employees, is the world's most comprehensive and broadly based manufacturer of health care products, as well as a provider of related services, for the consumer, pharmaceutical and medical devices and diagnostics markets. Johnson & Johnson has more than 200 operating companies in 57 countries around the world, selling products in more than 175 countries.

 


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