Childproof Your Home Theater
Protect your kids from the equipment and your equipment from the kids.
When you bought your home theater you thought about screen resolution, refresh rates and HDMI ports. You discussed audio options with the A/V guy, networking options with your neighbor and furniture with your wife. What you likely didn’t plan for were ways to protect your new equipment from your children and your children from the equipment. Here are a few things to consider, and rules to follow, when childproofing your home theater.
The TV—LCD or plasma—is the focal point of any home theater set up. When it comes to safety, wall-mounting your TV is preferable over a pedestal stand on a TV cabinet. When hanging the TV on your wall, your instinct might be to mount it high so junior can’t get to it; however, this isn’t an ideal viewing angle. Ideal viewing is at eye-level. One solution is to mount it to the wall at eye level, and put some sort of stand flush with the wall below it. This blocks the TV from being reached by kids and is still aesthetically pleasing.
If wall-mounting isn’t an option, a TV stand or armoire works just fine with a few precautions. Push the TV to the very back of the cabinet and either bolt it to the furniture or secure it to the wall (in a stud) with a hook and tie. Push the cabinet flush against the wall. You don’t want small children crawling behind the cabinet or squeezing their little hands back there—get rid of the temptation. Kids can get into the tiniest of spaces, don’t let this be one of them. Whatever you do, steer clear of swing arm mounts. When extended all the way out, these have the most potential for disaster of any solution.
Buttons and Wires
When it comes to equipment like DVRs, DVD players, media hubs, and gaming consoles, the best childproof solution is to keep everything behind closed doors. Unlike the 80-pound TV, this equipment isn’t dangerous, but a child’s sticky hands can quickly render your equipment useless. A cabinet with a door that can be locked with a plastic safety child lock is ideal. Just make sure the cabinet is well-ventilated because all that equipment can heat up significantly.
Another option is to adhere black Plexiglas over exposed buttons on equipment that is within reach of children. This will conceal the buttons and prevent anyone from even knowing the buttons are there. This eliminates the possibility of problems resulting from inadvertent or mischievous button-pressing and at the same time looks good. Kevin Berman, Principal, Cosmopolitan Entertainment Systems, NY, suggests this as a way to leave your equipment out without enticing your children to play with it.
Of course when the equipment isn’t directly dangerous to a child, the wires are a safety hazard. Ryan Herd, Owner of OneSoundChoice in NJ—and proud father of Riley Alexander, who’s 10 months old and into everything—suggests you “bundle the wires tightly together and tuck them out of the way. Of course, you want to conceal as many wires in the wall as possible—TVs and speakers—but for the other equipment, the best solution is to get them out of the way so your child can’t find them.”
Another less attractive option to keep baby away is to fence it all off with a sort of baby gate. This is the least appealing solution; once the gate comes down—even if for a few hours—your child will make a beeline for whatever it is he hasn’t been able to get to, foremost the buttons and wires. Not to mention, it’s not a visually attractive design.
When it comes to speakers most installation experts say to forget free-standing speakers. In-wall speakers are much better and safer.
Ask the Pros
For kids that are older, Berman suggests installing a dedicated, kid-only remote. “Have a second remote, a ‘kid remote’, that is easy to use. Have it pre-programmed to limit access to certain channels, maybe Disney and Nickelodeon, as well as other sources of appropriate content and certain functions—DVD player but not DVR. Parents can even lock it with a code, when they want to limit access. This is an especially good idea when implemented with ultra-high end systems that have expensive touch panel remotes that control everything from audio and visual to lighting.”
Of course in any home theater set up, the best practice is to think ahead and anticipate as much as you can. Get on your hands and knees and look around, see what your child sees. Also, hire a professional installer. “You don’t want a plasma or LCD landing on your child,” says Herd. “Professional installers have mounted hundreds of televisions in just as many scenarios, and know what to watch out for. They’ll know the tricks for a safe install.”
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