Dad's Car Seat Hack Goes Viral on TikTok, But Here's Why Experts Say It's Not a Good Idea
Having to get a child into a car seat can be tough. Caregivers often have to climb at least partially into an already-cramped car to ensure the child is safely buckled. And kids can be fidgety.
One TikTok dad thinks he found the perfect solution. The dad, who goes by @jesseh6969 on the platform, posted a video of himself putting his child into the car seat through the trunk. The car's rear seat is reclined. Once he's fastened his child's harness, Dad lifts the back seat up, and his child is now upright, albeit still slightly reclined. All the while, "Real Men of Genius," the song from the old Bud Light commercials, plays in the background.
The video has more than 400K views and 4,500 comments. Some of the commenters agree—this dad really is a genius.
"I wish I knew this when my kids were little," wrote one person.
But others had some concerns.
"Not safe," one said.
"The vehicle seat cannot be reclined. The car seat manufacturer does not allow it."
No one likes a lecture when it comes to parenting their child. Sometimes, like with breastfeeding vs. formula (or both) or purees vs. baby-led weaning (or both), the unsolicited advice and comments are completely unnecessary. But when it comes to car seat safety—something that's truly life or death—people may be genuinely concerned for a child's well-being
Car accidents were a leading cause in children under 12 in 2019, according to the CDC. The CDC also reports that car seat use can reduce the risk of injury in a crash by 71 to 82 percent. Of course, parents may not want advice from just anyone, particularly on TikTok. We got experts to weigh in.
Is This Car Seat Hack Safe?
Though some commenters loved the idea on TikTok, experts advise against trying it at home.
"Though it may look cute, it's certainly not how the product was designed and tested," says Sheena Hill, a child passenger safety technician (CPST) with 12 years of experience. "In particular, if the car seat isn't installed securely, the extra bouncing around is not great for the car seat. Every time the seat is bounced back into the upright position, it could disrupt the seat fit, including the way the seat sits on the vehicle seat pan and the seat recline."
Hill says she's also not convinced the parent can ensure the child is seated in the harness correctly from that position.
And parents should be careful about reclining the back seat of the car.
"It can only be reclined as much as would be safe and effective for an adult passenger in the same seat," she says. "We generally say this is only as reclined as would allow the seatbelt to still touch the body of the adult passenger for a good belt fit."
Hill says the seat in the TikTok video is "likely too reclined."
How To Make Buckling Up More Fun
Some kids don't like sitting still as their parent fastens their seatbelt. And other parents want to make car rides an adventure from start to finish.
"If parents are looking for new ways to get their child excited about car rides, there are safer hacks to consider, such as reading books about car rides, having a special song playing while everyone is getting buckled in, or offering a car-only toy or stuffed animal to hold during the ride," says Genevieve Rivera, executive director for the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, a non-profit that focuses on improving the way children are represented, treated, and protected.
Where To Find More Car Seat Safety Advice
Your child's car seat should come with a manual with safety advice, including the best place to put it in your car, weight limits, and any recline warnings. But since car seat safety is important, some parents may want some added assurance they're following best practices. Hill suggests reaching out to Safe Kids, an organization that focuses on reducing unintentional injuries in children, to find a local CPST.
"It's crucial to get education and support from certified CPSTs because child passenger safety changes rapidly, and it can be tough for non-professionals to keep up," Hill says. "For example, pediatricians do not routinely receive any training on car seats, and most fire departments do not employ CPSTs or provide car seat installation for liability reasons."