Drones, hoverboards, and VR headsets, oh my! Holidays are no doubt a joyous time for festive songs, illuminating decorations, and the ultimate kid-favorite activity — gift-giving. On that front, we're here to make sure you're giving equally cool and safe gifts this holiday season!
Not all hoverboards are created equal.
The news has been littered with hoverboards catching fire and some even exploding. While the incidence is low, it's enough to cause pause. The root cause of many is defective lithium ion batteries, so we advise you purchase through a reputable retailer that you can hold accountable, and check to see if the product has been certified third-party tested.
While this won't guarantee you won't get a knockoff or faulty product, it is added assurance. If you already have one, make sure to only charge the hoverboard in direct sight (ie. not in a closet or overnight). Also, since most related injuries are from falls, not fires, it's important when using one to wear protective gear and stay off of streets or high traffic areas. Of course, you have to also abide to whatever regulations are instituted by your city or town.
Your drone might get you in trouble with the law.
Yes, your neighbor might get annoyed, too, but you now have a new watchdog for your flights. Earlier this week, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) came out with a ruling requiring all owners of drones weighing 0.55-55 pounds (including any add-ons like cameras) to be registered before their first flight.
If you purchase one prior to December 21, you'll have a two-month grace period to register, otherwise you are expected to register before your first flight ($5 fee unless done by January 20). Considering sales for the holidays are expected at over half a million units, it will be difficult for the government to oversee this in practicality. But it is a step towards greater accountability, and offers an opportunity for education prior to flight. Regardless of when you purchased or received a drone, it's best to use common sense: Don't spy on your neighbor, don't fly one in a high-traffic area, and don't drink and fly.
Shop for safer toys — it will give you peace of mind.
When it comes to toys, you want to make sure you're getting ones that are educational, fun, and safe. Follow age recommendations, read warning labels (small parts, toxic materials, magnetic ingestion hazards), and if using in your home inspect the toys for sharp edges or potential pinch points. At Good Housekeeping, we've done the work of vetting the best toys for you with our annual Toy Awards.
That fancy new TV could tip over.
If you treat yourself to a new television this year, make sure to secure it. Once every hour, a child enters the ER for a TV tipover-related incident. If placing it atop furniture, make sure it's one that was designed to hold a television (ie. a TV stand or a media center). Even if it's not wall-mounted, it should still be anchored to the wall. It's also smart to remove any items around the TV that may tempt kids to climb atop, like toys or electronics. You can find more advice through the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) Anchor It campaign.
Although it's the wave of the future, you should still be careful with virtual reality.
As headsets become more affordable and content becomes more readily available, children and adults alike will be able to transport themselves into situations and destinations around the world. Teachers bringing their students on virtual field trips, athletes training in a more realistic environment, real estate brokers transporting you to the listing of your dreams, and doctors learning new skills without ever touching a real patient are just a few of the awesome implications for virtual reality (VR) headsets. But if you get one it's important to take necessary safety precautions, as with any new technology. Most notably, if you're prone to seizures or motion sickness, VR may not be for you.
Make sure you do your research before buying homemade or vintage items.
While it may be easier on the wallet to purchase vintage, used, or refurbished items, make sure you're aware of the risks. Always check product recalls for items you buy. While retailer and manufacturers usually pull recalled items from shelves, resale sites or individual sellers may not stay as up-to-date on announcements. Plus, regulations and standards also change over time, so while a vintage zip up jacket may be adorable, it can also have drawstrings which are now banned on children's outerwear.
And when it comes to homemade items, you should be especially careful. A CPSC spokeswoman, Patty Davis explains, "We know they [makers of homemade products] don't intend to cause harm to their customers. Their hearts are in the right place. But they do have to follow product safety rules just like the big manufacturers. Ask the seller if what they are offering for sale meets federal safety rules. They should know the answer."
In general, as online shopping becomes increasingly popular, it's more important than ever to be a cautious and well-informed customer. Shop with retailers you know and trust. And pay close attention to products vetted by third party labs.