Now that our definition of vacation has shifted towards “stay”-cation, has the increase in purchase and installation of pools brought an increase in pool safety & hygiene awareness? The International Federation of Swimming Teachers’ Association (IFSTA) founding member, Swimming Teacher’s Association (UK), found “that 70% of parents think swimming is the most important sport for children to learn—with 62% saying it’s an invaluable life skill”. This indicates most parents are aware of the need for swim training, but according to STA UK “while this research suggest British parents understand the true importance of swimming, the reality is a lot different with only a third of parents saying they take their children swimming at least once a week”. Parents’ understanding of how important swim training is evident, but unfortunately that understanding is not being turned into action. The truth becomes more alarming as we dig deeper. According to a poll done by Parents in 2017, “more than a third of parents would let their kids swim alone, and 1 in 7 would allow it if their child wasn’t able to swim independently.” There is no circumstance where a child should be allowed to swim without adult supervision, and even less when it comes to a child who has not had the proper swim training.
Is the confidence in our children’s innate ability to swim founded? Are our children capable of supervising themselves, and each other, in and around the pool? The simple answer is no, regardless of how much swim training they’ve had. According to a survey done by the Red Cross, “nearly all parents (94 percent) expect that their children will engage in some sort of water activity this summer. However, nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of parents report that their child cannot demonstrate all five basic skills that could save their lives in the water. Of these, 65 percent are parents of children (ages 4-12) and 51 percent are parents of teens (ages 13-17)”. Two-thirds of parents. That amounts to a lot of children unaware of proper pool safety. What’s worse is that amounts to a lot of potential drownings just waiting to happen.
Additionally, “23% of child drownings happen during a family gathering near a pool.” According to the survey conducted by the Red Cross “Nearly a fifth (18 percent) of adults who are not able to perform all five water safety skills expect to supervise a child near water this summer”. This is an exponential case for disaster. Keep in mind, the NDPA states “Drowning is fast and silent. It can happen in as little as 20-60 seconds.” That means parents, or those supervising, have less than a minute to react when it comes to drownings. Again, we ask, are our children capable of supervising themselves in or around a pool? If almost one out of every five adults is incapable of performing the basic water safety skills, then how do we expect our children to be prepared for such an event? They aren’t and we shouldn’t expect them to be.
These statistics shed a sober light on the reality of swim training. If 70% of parents believe learning to swim is so important, why is it that according to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) “drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury related death for children ages 1-4”? Again, there is no excuse for why our children should be swimming unsupervised.