Are Moms So Desperate for Safety That They’ll Buy Anything Marked “Safe”?

Hi Folks! Last year I went to a lecture by Tina Sharkey, the CEO of BabyCenter,  and one point she made that really resonated was this: If you want to sell something to moms, SAFETY is the magic word. That explains why I found it in this ad:


If you’ve seen any other ads that manage to promise safety in a product that IS and ALWAYS WAS safe already, let me know! – L. (bumbling her way into the world of vlogging and didn’t want to give away the entire idea in the post or the video would be redundant. Please forgive me, those of you who can’t watch the vid at work!)

58 Responses

  1. LOL! Why, just this morning my 5yo wanted to wear a DANGEROUS ponytail holder on her wrist so she could put it in her hair later, should she feel hot. I, being the paranoid helicopter mom that I am, explained to her about the need for continuous blood circulation, and she found a bigger, SAFER band, and that was that.

    I then got on the internet and began to lobby for minimum circumference for all ponytail holders, because you never know! (Um, no I didn’t.)

    But truly, when my kids were babies, I could not use most hair accessories, because each kid would go after the ones in her sister’s hair and do you-know-what with them. Maybe some company should have offered really huge hair pretties that kids could not swallow? (They’d also need to be non-pinchy, and neither too stretchy nor too tight.) Or . . . maybe it was my responsibility as a mom to know what was safe for my kids at a given time.

  2. Um, in what way are they safer than any other scrunchy? The ONLY thing I can think of is if they break apart so you can’t strangle with them. Not that that’s any kind of danger, but I have to admit I’m paranoid about things around the neck. But I would think a scrunchy would be too small.

    Hey, maybe they coat it with horrible tasting chemicals so kids won’t put it in their mouth! That could be a new industry! Cans of “Horrible taste” so you can spray everything in your house so you kids won’t eat your shoes and wallet!

    Hey Lenore, I’ll give you a cut if you’ll write an article for a magazine and drop hints about how great it would be if kids didn’t eat shoes and wallets. And I’ll have my add placed right next to it 🙂

  3. I think I’d have bigger problems on my hands if my kid ate scrunchys.

    The last time I wore a scrunchy (think long ago when I was single) I was dog sitting my sister’s horribly-behaved chocolate lab. She left detailed instructions on the care of this Marley-like beast. Two pages worth of care instructions that the dog jumped on the counter and ate right after they left. The lab then came up to my head and ate the scrunchy out of my hair. My sister called me later in the week (after it passed) to tell me she found my scrunchy in the yard. I never wore them again.

  4. Companies are capitalizing on the power of marketing and ignorant people. Just like “sex”, “get skinny”, and “be popular” sells, apparently so does “it’s safe for children”. I’m in the wrong business.

    Hey, I have awesome rocks for sale. You’ll have that special someone fawning over you for it. If you place it under you below at night, it will help to shed those unwanted pounds using it’s patented weight loss techonology. And yes, you’ll be the hit in your school, workplace, and family gatherings. Above all, it’s fun and safe for the whole family. Your children will love you for it. “Rock It!” Only three payments of $9.99. Act now, and we’ll double your order absolutely FREE! And we’ll pay the the shipping and handling. Prices do not include applicable taxes. Hurry, while supplies last!

  5. (Just for note, she left BabyCenter as CEO last month.)

  6. I remember when I was pregnant being sold a pillow that would keep my baby on his stomach or was it his back…I can’t remember. I tried to say no but when the salesperson more or less said, “well if you are not worried about your newborn suffocating than you won’t need one” I bought it.
    16 years later I worry about a lot more than suffocating but I help my son make good choices and keep my fears, anxiety, and what if’s to a minimum. So far so good.
    Thanks. I have enjoyed reading a number of your articles.

  7. Could you post a transcript or provide closed captions for your video? YouTube’s automatic closed captions are a little… inaccurate. Thanks!

  8. It seems the interviewees were trying to pull dangerous possibilities out of nowhere…

  9. Transcript would be great. I am in the mob that read blogs in situations that require silence (in my case putting kids down for naps).

  10. It’s the nature of marketing to take advantage of every angle. I still get a chuckle every single time I read “fat free” on my jar of honey. Really?! How much fat is in the other brand?

  11. When I’m in a dark mood, part of me wonders about the correlation between the number of unnecessary safety precautions for kids and the number of incompetent weaklings who have been allowed to reach adulthood. It’s the same part of me that says that if your kid is eating paint chips (lead or otherwise) they’ve already got brain damage.

    Then I go hug a puppy and everything feels better.

    Still, I recall fondly the words of the captain in “Wall-E”: “I don’t wanna survive; I wanna live!”

  12. Lenore, good job branching out into vlogging. Technical comment: On the white background part, the audio was echo-y, as if you were in a small room with hard surfaces. If you were recording at home then blanking the background, find a room with sound-absorbing material (couches, carpet, etc). It’ll sound a lot better.

    On topic: Fear sells. “Buy this or your child will DIE” works, so companies use it.

  13. y’know, if it was mandated that every one have cropped short (military style) hair, unsafe scrunchies and pony tail holders would be outlawed. I mean, the SAFETY of our children and grandchildren is at stake here.

    (end sarcasm)

  14. Hey, I had to go to youtube to watch your vlog. It wouldn’t play here. I’m not sure what the issue might be, but I thought I’d let you know about it.

    I look forward to more vlogs from you! Hopefully I won’t have to make some extra clicks to get to them next time. 🙂

  15. I so want a radioactive penguin now. Wonder where I can get one. There needs to be a brand of toys called f’ing unsafe or something.

  16. “Are Moms so desperate they’ll buy anything marked ‘safe’?” asks Lenore.

    By and large, probably not. It’s just that marketers have discovered that “safe” is a comforting and appealing word to moms, even to many of those with a relatively sane view of safety. So they use it.

  17. “It’s the nature of marketing to take advantage of every angle. I still get a chuckle every single time I read “fat free” on my jar of honey. Really?! How much fat is in the other brand?”


  18. When I was younger, really big hair scrunchies (small rubber band with lots of, often satiny, material around it) were common. My stepfather used to say that they looked like you had your panties in your hair. This is, of course, like waiving a red flag to a pedophile. Once a pedophile sees something that makes him think of panties he can’t possible be expected to do anything other than kidnap the child. And all men are pedophiles. So hair scrunchies are dangerous in that they encourage child abduction. How could you not see the connection, Lenore?

  19. Coming to a theater near you: “When Scrunchies Attack!”

    Going slightly off topic, we have just seen a commercial for a well known home security company’s CCTV services. It asked “What would it be like if you could see your kids come home — when you’re not even in the house?” My ten-year-old watched this, and gave his verdict: “It would be very creepy.” Quite.

  20. I’ve seen a similar ad here in SoCal for TWC’s “smart home” service. My favorite is the smiling teenage daughter waving at the camera while Mom contentedly checks during some business meeting.

    Oh, yeah. Teenage daughter just loves having Mom know where she is…

  21. Its exactly like marketing something as “fat free” which, due to the nature of the product, never contained fat in the first place… doesn’t make it calorie free or even good for you, but “fat free” seems to be magic words on food products

  22. The “scrunchies look like panties” made me laugh…

    I don’t get fat free half and half… What the heck is the other “half”?

    Also cant stand all the baby proofing stuff on the market to keep kids safe from stuff that is really not dangerous…and then gets used by some parents until the baby goes to kindergarten…

  23. I, too, have been trying to find non-diet honey. I usually mix my honey with lard because it doesn’t have enough fat in it.

  24. I totally fail at worst-first thinking. Choking was not even in the realm of possibility for me. I was thinking it was going to have something to do with being too tight or something.

  25. Hmm, didn’t embed, but (IMHO) worth the click over.

  26. Interestingly, I watched “You Can’t Take It With You” the 1938 academy winner of best film and best director.
    Great line in there about the ludicrous technique of fear mongering in order to sell products.
    I feel it is such a shame that more people did not pick up on that line then, and take it to heart and mind then. Imagine what our world could have been like if we had not been subjected to fear mongering for the last 70 years??

  27. Lenore, you have been quoted in a magazine in Australia, “Choice.” (This is a consumer watchdog magazine). It talks about the marketing of “saftey products” for babies and young children. In Australia we have a great website that talks sensibly about child saftety. I believe saftey must be very similar all over the world.

    And by the way I am waiting for olive oil being promoted as 99% sugar free.

  28. I never knew that the hair scrunchies that I wore in the ’80s and early ’90s were so hazardous. What was I thinking when I bought them?

    By the way, I always buy sugar in the box with the label that says, “Contains no high fructose corn syrup.”

  29. I have an entire drawer full of scrunchies at home that I wear practically every day. Call CPS, my kids are clearly doomed.

    @Peter: I was on vacation and saw that ‘Smart Home’ ad. This is a completely unnecessary piece of technology. I can tell exactly what they do when I’m not home by the trails they leave behind. Typically, they sneak handfuls of chocolate chips from my baking cabinet, drink the diet soda that I try to limit to one a day, crash lego airplanes down the stairs, and play roller coaster tycoon. They also drop their backpacks and shoes right in the middle of the living room, ignore the cat barf on the rug, and leave dirty socks on the desk. Stealthy these guys ain’t. Who needs a camera? Moms KNOW what you did…

  30. You have to cut blood circulation off for HOURS before it becomes an issue, and that’s when using a turnique or something similar. If discomfort from a scrunchie or any other rubber band would occur, any sensible person will just take it off. Any dangerous discomfort would be HOURS off. Case solved and closed. As for eating, chewing, choking. Kids DO recognise what is edible and what’s not.

    Lenore: love the vlog. Reminds me of the tv-show 🙂

  31. I love the vlog!!

    Great post.

  32. “Kids do recognize what is edible and what is not.” Depends on the age. Or have you not had the pleasure of finding game pieces in a toddler’s poo? (My baby sister swallowed one of the murder weapons in the game “Clue.” Can’t remember whether it was the wrench or the dagger.)

  33. Showed this to my husband. He said that if the scrunchies were too small to strangle you, they were small enough to choke you.

    No winning with those dangerous hair products.

  34. Just thought of another danger! When my sister was a baby, she got into my mother’s scrunchie box and put all the scrunchies on the cat–neck, tail, legs, everything. We still have a picture of the poor humiliated animal. Therefore, scrunchies lead to animal abuse.

  35. BMS, you are so right. I used to wonder how parents always knew what you were up to. Now I know.

  36. And they are always so amazed! It’s like, “How do you know I was eating poptarts in bed?” Hmm. Could be from the 4 poptart wrappers I found next to your reading light, in addition to the sprinkles on the sheets.

    These guys have never learned the eleventh commandment: Thou shall not get caught.

  37. @backroadsem: Tell your husband, even IF the scrunchies were small enough to choke you, because it’s too small to strangle you (as his reasoning), it would still be large enough to be a real effort to swallow. In a sense, a child would have to literally be trying to choke themselves eating the scrunchie. Little toy pieces, coins, dirt, these are more of concern for the toddlers who are learning to put things into their mouths. Buy the time they are 3, they (at least mine and every other child I know at that age) know what doesn’t taste good, and is not food, therefore not put in their mouths. Pets are in far more “danger” of scrunchies than children. 😉

  38. Funny about the “you’re busted” comments. I love it when I’m just innocently minding my own business and my kid says “What!!?” Hmm, I didn’t accuse anyone of anything – yet.

  39. EricS – Depends on the kid. My 6 year old still constantly puts things in her mouth. We’ve just moved past fear of choking age. In fact, many adults frequently chew on non-food items especially when they are concentrating on something.

  40. No worries, Eric S, my husband said it in complete amazement of such a worry.

  41. Not sure why this didn’t occur to me, but notice they’re not selling ‘Safety’ to dads? And it’s not just scrunchies. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of safety being pushed that way to dads. Come to think of it, most parenting sales seem to be pushed at moms. Judging from the number of male-name comments on here, that’s ANOTHER missed market!

  42. @Donna – so true. I was a supposedly fairly bright preschooler, reading before five etc, but zero common sense about things in mouths. Manage to swallow a plastic cow when I was four – something to do with that poem about the old lady and the fly, I think. Anyway, after dragging it from my bleeding throat, Mum had finally had enough, and cured that particular habit with a good smack. :-). (Seeing the blood on the cow probably helped too, as did the pain in my throat, LOL).

    Sad that it’s illegal to do that now…..

  43. And also, totally off topic, but did you manage to get a break in Auckland and its environs? And eat some different food etc?

    If you did, hope it was fun. We were up there about a month ago and it was typical for winter, very grey and a bit depressing…..

  44. My 5yo will also sometimes put things in her mouth for no good reason. Drives me nuts! She will also smear food while eating. This is my smart kid, mind you. Something about sensory excitabilities or whatever. Gross if you ask me.

  45. Well, finally, the epidemic of scrunchie stranglings is at an end. I will sleep better tonight.

    This is so ridiculous. It reminds me of a story I did on Passover a few years ago. I interviewed older Jewish women about their memories of Passover, and one was complaining how, during the season, food companies would suddenly slap the “Kosher” label on products that already are. During the season, you could practically buy Kosher paper napkins and Kosher cigarettes, she said.

  46. SKL – The latest thing my daughter is putting in her mouth is her hair. Grosses me out. I keep threatening to shave her head if she doesn’t stop but she’s caught on that it is an idle threat.

    hineata – We didn’t make it to Auckland. Decided to wait until the weather was nicer. We are doing the grand tour of New Zealand in January. Right at prime holiday time but what can you do?

  47. I like the comment on the YouTube video. “Whoever heard of a non-radioactive penguin?”

  48. @Donna- don’t kow how long your daughters hair is, but I told my daughter she had to have braids or tight pony if she sucked her hair… Even threatened a bun…just think, now she can have a safe pony and you cannot worry that she will strangle herself…

  49. Depends on the age. Or have you not had the pleasure of finding game pieces in a toddler’s poo?

    I’d argue that it depends on the size, color, and taste of the object.

    A small thing like a monopoly house/hotel or a game piece is easily swallowed. They’re usually brightly colored, like candy. And if it has no taste whatsoever, the small child won’t really notice when they put it in their mouth.

    It’s not that easy to swallow a scrunchy. The kid would really really want to try to swallow it. And since it’s not really tasteless, like the game piece, I’m pretty sure the kid wouldn’t really have the incentive to do so.

  50. When my son was a baby, I was amazed by all the safety devices. I was telling a friend of mine (who was childless and in her early 20s at the time) about all of the baby safety gadgets that were available for me to buy since my son was apparently always in grave danger. She suggested that we start our own company of superfluous baby products. We were going to call it the “OMG My baby is…” then throw out some horrible outcome, and the product would help them avoid the outcome. I remember we decided on “OMG my baby has a severe head injury” and the product would be a helmet (to be worn at all times), and “OMG, my baby lost an eye” and the product was bubble wrap (to be used to cover both your baby and all the objects in your house). I still think we could have made a killing.

    And the only injury a scrunchie ever caused me is due to how violently I wince when I see pictures of myself from the late 80s/early 90s. I went to Catholic school, so we had uniforms. One of my friend’s moms made us all scrunchies out of our skirt material, you know, so it matched. No one escapes awkward photos from their tween years!

  51. Oh noes! I let my child wear the little tiny hair elastics that aren’t much more than a colorful rubber band! Sorry, but her fine hair isn’t staying in a scrunchy! And if the scrunchy were to fall out, her hair would be in her face! And if her hair is in her face, she could run into a wall!
    Danger! Danger!! Damned if I do, damned if I don’t! Maybe I should cut her hair to avoid this problem…but then I would have to put sharp scissors near her head!

    P.S., I love your videos, Lenore!

  52. Jules, if you cut her hair too short, she might get sunburned on top of her scalp, have to stay inside for the skin to heal, and getten eaten by a day-liking monster-in-the-closet.

  53. Didn’t you know Scrunchy deaths are among the leading causes of death among children these days? About 50,000 children are in risk of death each year from this Scrunchy epidemic.

  54. One of my favorite takes on this:

  55. @AW13 They actually sell scrunchies that match uniforms now. My kids went to Catholic school for 3 years and the place we bought their uniforms sold all sorts of hair things matching the uniforms (my girls had headbands). Scrunchies were all the craze when I was in high school (Catholic school in the early/mid 90s). We even had a section in the yearbook one year discussing scrunchie use, lol.

    I have scrunchies all over the house because as soon as my hair is long enough to pull up it’s pulled up. All 5 of my kids survived toddlerhood (well, the youngest turns 2 tomorrow and is still kicking). I can’t recall any of them putting a scrunchie in their mouth even though they seem to end up all over the house.

    As for kids putting stuff in their mouths… I’ve had both kinds. My 10yo and 9yo both still put stuff in their mouths. I’m constantly telling them not to chew on their toys and clothes. The 10yo always seems to be chewing on legos or the rubber tires from his toy cars. They have never choked on a toy but we had to keep really tiny pieces out of their reach until they were around 4.

    Now my 6yo stopped putting stuff in her mouth around 15 months. After that she played with her sisters’ tiny toys and I never once worried about her choking. My 2yo seems to be about the same. I can’t remember seeing him put a toy in his mouth in months. And we have a ton of miniscule toys. As, I recall, my 12yo stopped about the same time but because of her younger siblings couldn’t have small toys until she as in school.

  56. I think that we should all support Irwin Mainway’s toys…

    That may inject some sanity in this discussion. Because, really, there’s no end of what you can do with “shards of glass”, or “Johny Switchblade”.

  57. When I was a kid (probably 10 or 11) I went to sleep with a scrunchy on my wrist. It was getting a little loose, so I wrapped it around twice. When I woke up in the morning my hand was numb and twice its normal size. You know what I did? Well, I sure as sh*t didn’t tell my mom because she would have beat my ass for doing something so stupid! Anyway, I took the scrunchy off and spent half the day messing around with my hand so I wouldn’t have to tell my mom how dumb I was. And I :gasp: learned a lesson! I never did that again! Imagine that.
    On another note as far as “safe” products are concerned, have you seen this backpack that’s also an alarm the child can pull if a stranger wanders into their filed of vision????? I don’t even have words for it…

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