The world’s largest lifeguard organization is urging parents to put down their phones this week, claiming there’s a direct link between child drownings and parents’ smartphone usage.
The German Lifeguard Association, which fields over 40,000 volunteer lifeguards across Germany’s lakefronts and beaches, issued a warning to adults about phone distraction after more than 300 reported drownings in the nation just this year.
“We’re experiencing on a daily basis that people treat swimming pools like a kindergarten and simply don’t pay attention,” said Peter Harzheim, president of the German federation of swimming pool supervisors.
“In the past, parents and grandparents spent more time with their children in the swimming pool. But increasing numbers of parents are fixated by their smartphones and are not looking left or right, let alone paying attention to their children,” he told German media. “It’s sad that parents behave so neglectfully these days.”
According to a spokesperson for the lifeguard association, “too few parents and grandparents are heeding the advice.”
German lifeguards are also pointing blame at the country’s school system for not mandating swim lessons for children by a certain age.
Drowning is the number one cause of death in children ages 1-4 years old.
And while the urge comes from lifeguards across Germany, the plea exists here in the United States as well. A Texas mother was charged after a witness reportedly claimed she was using her phone while three of her children drowned in an apartment complex pool in 2015.
In addition to putting down your smartphone, here are a few ways you can ensure your kids are safe in the water.
Enroll in swim lessons
According to new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children should learn to swim at the age of 1.
“Research has found that swim lessons are beneficial for children starting around age 1, and may lower drowning rates”, said Dr. Linda Quan, a co-author of the policy statement.
“Learning to swim is a great family activity,” she says. “Families can talk with their pediatrician about whether their child is developmentally ready for swim lessons, and then look for a program that has experienced, well-trained instructors. Ideally, programs should teach ‘water competency’ too — the ability to get out of the water if your child ends up in the water unexpectedly.”
Of course, even the best swim lessons cannot “drown-proof” a child. The AAP recommends parents take steps to make a child’s environment safer — especially around any sort of water, from swimming pools to bathtubs, as a toddler can drown in less than a minute.
Floaties are not life-saving devices.
Little orange floaties hugging toddlers’ arms are a stable of Summer. But be forewarned, they are not to be used without adult supervision.
Experts suggest that if a child is not fully able to swim and is in the pool with an inflatable device, the parent or guardian also needs to be in the pool within an arm’s reach from the child.
Just last month, we shared the story of a 3-year-old girl who jumped into the pool wearing an inflatable tube and landed upside down, head under water, struggling to escape the floating device. With legs flailing, she nearly drowned.
Get in the water.
The absolute best way to keep your kids safe from drowning this summer is by getting in the water with them.
This is especially important if your family is swimming in a larger body of water like a beach or lake. Riptides can take kids under in a second, so it’s important to do the swimming with them and keep yourself close by IN the water.
Leave your smartphone back at the chairs, and enjoy your kids’ childhood WITH them. If you need some inspiration on that, check out this awesome post ——> Dear Mama: This Summer, Be The One.