Parents must be vigilant in keeping children safe near water
Although we begin teaching our children at a young age to be safe, as responsible adults we do not rely on these lessons as our only strategy for keeping them safe. We teach our toddlers to stop before venturing onto the street, to look for cars, where and how to cross safely and not to play on the street. And yet, we do not leave our toddler unattended by the road-side to play.
However, a number of parents have been lulled into the belief that teaching infants and children to swim will keep them safe around water. This has been fed in part by a video circulating on the Internet showing young children able to float on their backs, suggesting that this method will protect them from drowning. The Canadian Red Cross completely disagrees with this method and states that the only way to keep children safe in and around water is through constant adult supervision. The learned sequence of floating skills as shown in the video will not protect children from drowning.
The Canadian Paediatric Society released a position statement for toddlers aged two to four, in February, 2007: “There is no evidence that swimming lessons prevent drowning or near drowning in this age group. Although it may be possible to teach young infants basic motor skills for water, infants cannot be expected to learn the elements of water safety or to react appropriately in emergencies. No young child, particularly those who are preschool aged, can ever be considered ‘water safe’.”
Drowning statistics gathered by the Canadian Red Cross from coroner’s reports across Canada since 1991 show that two-thirds of drowning in those five years of age or less happened while there was a lack of parental supervision. The key to safety is vigilance. Know where the child is at all times, know what potential hazards exist for the child and create safety barriers between the water hazards and the child.
Parents of preschool-age children should register in classes offered through SCRD Recreation to learn swimming, safety skills and water enjoyment together.
The Red Cross urges parents and caregivers to help children be safe through learning to swim, to be vigilant and to have a healthy respect for the dangers that waterside activities present for persons of all ages.