What do you do when your kid's no longer a toddler or preschooler and, slowly but surely, their friends are moving out of car seats—but you're not not sure if you should do the same? This mom is urging parents to let safety guidelines—and not peer pressure—help you decide.

By Melissa Mills
February 02, 2021
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Credit: Getty Images.

Born in the late '80s, my childhood was filled with long drives with the windows down, calling dibs on the front seat, plus a questionable trip in my dad's work truck where I was seated on an actual bucket where the passenger seat should have been, seatbelt and all. My sister and I were out of car seats of any kind before we were in school. So were all of our friends.

Car seats have come a long way since then—and so, too, have regulations to keep kids safe. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it's recommended that infants and toddlers use rear-facing car seats until around age 2, toddlers and preschoolers remain in forward-facing car seats until they meet the height and weight specifications from their car seat manufacturer, and school-age kids—typically between 8 and 12—should use a booster seat until the car's seatbelt fits properly. And forget about claiming the coveted passenger seat: All kids under the age of 13 should remain in the backseat.

But what do you do when your kid's no longer a preschooler and starting to compare themselves to their friends who have moved out of car seats and into boosters? Australian mom Louise Thomsen addressed just this on her Paging Fun Mums Facebook page.

"Here is a photo of my 7 year old on a long road trip we took over the school holidays," Thomsen wrote. "He has been teased for being in a 'baby seat' from his friends at school this past term. No parent wants their child to experience ridicule BUT the statistics speak for themselves regarding children & approved car seats...especially when they fall asleep in their seats."

She's right. It's important to note that with all of that AAP guidance, age is just a flexible piece of the equation. Your child's height and weight—and not what their peers are doing—should be big contributing factors for deciding which car seat is the safest. Check with your car seat manufacturer—or even your pediatrician if you're not sure—for their recommendations and to see where your child falls.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), car crashes are a leading cause of death among children, but using car seats properly can reduce injury up to 82 percent compared to just using a seatbelt. Booster seats can reduce the risk of serious injury by 45 percent. On top of that, "A study of five states that increased the age requirement to 7 or 8 years for car seat and booster seat use found that the rate of children using car seats and booster seats increased nearly three times, and the rate of children who sustained fatal or incapacitating injuries decreased by 17 percent."

So let's say it one more time for the people in the back: Consider your kid's height and weight—and not their age—when thinking about your car setup. And, parents, let's reinforce the idea that car seats aren't just for babies and staying safe is cool. No one should be bullied—period.

"Take all the factors into consideration when making these choices," the Australian mom urged. "Don't just follow the trend, follow the safest option to protect your family." 

Comments (2)

Anonymous
February 3, 2021
where is the chest clip? thats what will help prevent him from being a human bullet in the event of an accident. the way he is in that booster he is as good as unrestrained.
Anonymous
February 2, 2021
MIs-leading article. Read the CDC studies provided and you will see that the studies are that 0-4 year olds benefit from car seat use and 4-8 year old benefit from using booster seats. You will also see that the majority of child injuries are from kids who had not restraint (no seat and no seatbelt) at all. Nothing in the studies shows a benefit for 5-12 year old to be using a car seat. That is based on car seat manufacturers recommendations. IE they want to sell more car seats. Should 0-4 year olds use car seats? Definitely, Maybe even older depending on their size. Is a booster seat a good idea if your child does not fit in a seat belt correctly, most likely yes. Should 7-8 year olds be in car seats? Probably not. 47% of car seats are used incorrectly. and 20+% of booster seats leading to increased likely hood of injury. By the way, the 7 year old did not go viral, his mother did, and just looking at the picture of him shows he is too big for the car seat he is in.