Experts Say This Dad's Viral TikTok Car Seat Hack Isn't a Good Idea

One dad's idea for getting his kid into a car seat looks like fun, but is it safe?

Getting a child buckled 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 don't always comply—they can be fidgety, or worse, fight tooth or nail to avoid getting safely strapped in. For many parents, this car seat drama becomes a daily battle.

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 with the car's rear seat reclined.

Once he's fastened his child's harness, the dad lifts the back seat up, and his smiling 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. Hurray! Problem solved, right?

An image of an empty carseat.
Getty Images.

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 have 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) discussions, the unsolicited advice and comments are completely unnecessary. But when it comes to car seat safety—something that's truly a life or death issue—people may be genuinely concerned for a child's well-being.

Why Proper Car Seat Use Matters

Car accidents were a leading cause of death in children under 12 in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also reports that car seat use can reduce the risk of injury in a crash by 71% to 82%. Of course, being in a car seat, even if buckled in from the trunk, is certainly much safer than not being in a car seat at all.

But for maximum protection, it's essential to use the car seat as intended, and that includes how you buckle your child in. It turns out that there are safety concerns about strapping in a child from the reclined position.

Still, parents may not want advice from just anyone, particularly on TikTok. So, we got experts to weigh in.

Is This Car Seat Hack Safe?

Though some commenters loved the idea on TikTok, the experts we talked to still 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."

Additionally, Hill says she's 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 adds the seat in the TikTok video is "likely too reclined" for optimal safety.

How To Make Buckling Up More Fun

Certainly, getting kids into car seats, particularly toddlers, can be a real challenge. Some kids don't like sitting still as their parent fastens their seatbelt. Others may actively struggle against being restrained at all, which is why making the process a bit more fun is appealing—for parents and kids alike.

"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.

Other ideas include letting your child have a safe snack or drink once buckled up, singing a favorite nursery rhyme while strapping them in, or using star charts to encourage compliance with getting into their seat.

Car Seat Safety Resources

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 that can make sure you're using your child's car seat correctly.

"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."

The Bottom Line

The novelty of putting your child in their car seat in a reclined position through the trunk may get you a bit more compliance—at first. However, this approach raises safety concerns. So, while it's certainly understandable and clever to come up with ways to make car rides for your kiddo more "fun," the added ease isn't worth potentially reducing the effectiveness of your child's car seat.

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