"Yes, my family would buy a backyard trampoline."
Rick Campanelli, dad of two
Trampolines are good, old-fashioned fun. I think some parents today are way too cautious. Their rules and fears end up discouraging kids from living healthy lives. My wife and I don’t have the space for a backyard trampoline, but if we had a bigger yard, we’d definitely get one for our two sons. (Noah is nine and Jack is just five months.) I think anything that encourages this generation of children to be outside and active, and away from a screen, is beneficial.
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We should celebrate trampolines, and not over-regulate them, because it’s a way for our kids to have fun, learn physical skills and be fit. A lot of families can’t commit to organized sports because of high costs or parent work schedules that prevent kids from getting to practices and games. After the initial investment of a trampoline, there’s minimal upkeep.
I also believe that, as parents, we know our children. If you have a wild, adventurous kid who has a hard time with boundaries, you might want to choose another activity until he or she can understand basic safety rules. My son Noah, and my niece and nephews, all tend to be calm, responsible and a little timid, so I feel confident letting them use their own judgment. (Not every parent can do this, I know.) If I felt my kids were being reckless, or putting others at risk, then it’d be time for a chat—a good teaching opportunity.
Almost every activity, with the right adult supervision and guidelines in place, can be safe. I’d also argue that pretty much any activity, without supervision, can be dangerous. Children today can get into harmful situations just being on the computer (you never know who they’ll be corresponding with). Or take bike riding and skateboarding—favourite pastimes for many kids. These sports can also be risky, but no one is talking about banning them. If you teach your kids responsibility, safe outdoor play becomes second nature.
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The more we try to restrict our children, the less they get to learn for themselves. Many parents hover over their kids, and sometimes I wonder if the generation we’re raising now is going to look back on childhood later, and realize they missed out on a lot of fun.
"No, my family wouldn't buy a backyard trampoline."
Cheryl Hickey, mom of two
Trampolines freak me out. I would never own one, because I have a four-year-old son, Jaxson, who is wonderfully adventurous, active and always on the go. According to Jaxson, everything in his world should be “higher, faster!” Whenever we go to a friend’s place where there’s a backyard trampoline, I cringe. Yes, occasionally, I have let him jump—begrudgingly. Children at Jaxson’s age do not have full control of their bodies yet, and trying to attempt a flip he’s seen an older kid do is just a bad idea. My main concern is that with one wrong move, he could get a head injury or dislocate something.
The Canadian Paediatric Society says trampolines pose a significant risk of injury, especially to kids ages five to 14. Safe Kids Canada and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons are also anti-trampoline. In one US study published earlier this year, researchers found that between 2002 and 2011, trampoline accidents sent almost 300,000 people—mostly kids—to the ER with broken bones. And if you look at all injuries—not just fractures—the total is more than a million ER visits. The American Academy of Pediatrics has gone even further: Their official position is that recreational backyard trampolines should never be used at home, or even at indoor playgrounds, and some doctors have spoken out, recommending a full-on ban. I don’t know about you, but that’s enough for me to make my decision.
Now, my friend and colleague Rick—who is an amazing dad, by the way—says you can’t keep your child in a bubble. To which I say, every situation is different, and when it comes to trampolines, I would rather have my kid in a bubble than a neck brace. As a parent, sometimes you have to wrap your kids in care to show them what’s appropriate for their age and skill level. To me, this is what parenting is.
I agree that our kids need to encounter a few tumbles, bumps and bruises as they grow up. Of course we should let them fall down and learn from their mistakes. But when this kind of life lesson comes at such a high-stakes, high-risk, and scary cost—and goes against numerous expert medical opinions—I’m OK with being called a helicopter parent.
Cheryl Hickey and Rick Campanelli host ET Canada, which airs weeknights at 7:30pm ET/PT on Global.
A version of this article appeared in our August 2014 issue with the headline, "Would you buy a backyard trampoline?" p. 90.
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