12 Safety Lies Our Parents Told Us

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You’ve been lied to. While our parents probably had good intentions, so many safety tips our parents told us that are actually half-truths or full-on whoppers. 

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1. It’s against the law to drive with the dome light on


Composite image: Kelvin Valerio, Pexels, SafeWise

Often times I would want to lay in the backseat and read while on a road trip, but my parents wouldn’t let me turn on the dome light. They always said it was illegal to drive with the dome light on because it’s not safe. Turns out, in most states, it’s perfectly legal.

But, there are some good reasons leaving on the light is not a good idea. First, having a bright light over your head decreases your ability to see things out on the dark road. Second, it makes it easier to see how many people are in the car. If someone has ill intentions, this is useful information for them. So this is actually just a half-lie. It is legal, but not safe.

2. Bottled water is healthier than tap water

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Unless your town has a poor water system, bottled water is typically just as safe as tap water since the regulations for both are about the same, according to the Mayo Clinic.¹

If you’re really worried about the safety of your water get a water filtration system. Check out our list of the top filtration systems.

3. Reading in the dark ruins your eyes

Nope, this was a flat-out lie.² You’re parents just wanted you to go to sleep. Dim light may strain your eyes, but it won’t hurt them.


Image: Maël Balland, Pexels

4. Staring at the TV/computer screen/video game too much will ruin your eyes

Just like night reading, staring at screens can strain your eyes, but it isn’t bad for them.² Chances are your parents just wanted you to get up and do something other than grow roots in their furniture.

5. Mess with that thing and it will put your eye out

I told [my kid] that if he broke the glow stick he was obsessively bending it might blind him.  But then he did break it all over his face and he had to go to the ER to have his eyes flushed. Then we (and all the ER personnel) learned that it is a non-toxic and non-blinding substance! I didn't mean to lie, but it turns out I did.” –Rebecca Edwards

6. Don’t draw on your skin, you’ll get ink poisoning


Image: Ksenia Chernaya, Pexels

Ink poisoning is caused by swallowing ink, but even then most inks are non-toxic. Let’s be honest, they just didn’t want you to draw on yourself.

7. Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis

Whether you love a good crack, or the sound is pure cringe, knuckle popping is harmless. When you flex a joint, the space in the joint enlarges and synovial fluid (the stuff that lubes your joints) rushes in to fill the space. The sound you hear is the fluid rushing in.³

8. The pine/citrus smell means it’s clean, and clean is safe

You knew your parents had been cleaning when the house was full of enough pine or citrus scent to knock you to the floor. While technically the floors and countertops might have been clean, they probably weren’t safe.

Turns out, the chemicals that make those cleaning products smell so good can create secondary indoor pollutants. The concentration of these pollutants in the air can be worse than car exhaust according to a study published in Science Advances.

9. Coffee will stunt your growth

Image: Rodnae Productions, Pexels

No, sneaking sips of this grownup drink didn’t make you short. You have your parent’s genes to thank for that.

10. Standing next to the microwave is bad for you

Look, radiation at high levels is very bad for you. But unless your microwave is broken or you’re using it in a weird way, it’s not leaking enough radiation to hurt you.

There is literally radiation everywhere, from the sun’s rays to radon in the air. Our bodies can handle small amounts.

11. If you play with fire, you'll pee the bed

Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova, Pexels

This old wives tale goes that if you play with matches, or any other form of fire, you’ll pee the bed at night. My dad would tell me this one whenever I threw things in the campfire. According to Reddit, my parents weren’t the only ones. You’ve got to admit it’s a creative way to keep kids from burning themselves.

12. Do that and it will explode

“Sometimes I set our security alarm and I tell them to not open the door or the alarm will trigger and detonate.” –Kyle Lemmon

Explosions are an easily adaptable lie for any situation. Don’t eat that candy with cola, you’ll explode. Don’t throw poppers under the car, it will explode. As an adult, I thought there would be a lot more explosions in my life.



  1. The Mayo Clinic, Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D, “Is Tap Water as Safe as Bottled Water?” Accessed April 28, 2022.
  2. University of Utah, “Can Reading in Low Light Harm Your Eyes?” November 08, 2021. Accessed April 28, 2022.
  3. Plos One, Gregory N. Kawchuk, “Real-Time Visualization of Joint Cavitation,” April 15, 2015. Accessed April 28, 2022.
  4. Science Advances, Colleen Marciel F. Rosales, “Chemistry and Human Exposure Implications of Secondary Organic Aerosol Production from Indoor Terpene Ozonolysis,” February 25, 2022. Accessed April 28, 2022.
  5. Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, “Does Coffee Stunt Your Growth?” Accessed April 28, 2022.
  6. FDA, “Microwave Oven Radiation.” Accessed April 28, 2022.
  7. NRC, “Radiation All Around Us: Doses in Our Daily Lives.” Accessed April 28, 2022.


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Alina Bradford
Written by
Alina Bradford
Alina is a safety and security expert that has contributed her insights to CNET, CBS, Digital Trends, MTV, Top Ten Reviews, and many others. Her goal is to make safety and security gadgets less mystifying one article at a time. In the early 2000s, Alina worked as a volunteer firefighter, earning her first responder certification and paving the way to her current career. Her activities aren’t nearly as dangerous today. Her hobbies include fixing up her 100-year-old house, doing artsy stuff, and going to the lake with her family.

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