More Kids Are Learning How to Swim, But Certain Kids Are Being Left Behind

There's good news and bad news when it comes to findings from a new USA Swimming Foundation study on kids' ability to swim.

kids learning to swim
Photo: Golden Pixels LLC/Shutterstock

More kids are learning how to swim, according to a new survey by the USA Swimming Foundation. But there's some not-so-good news the study uncovered as well.

According to the news release, USA Swimming found a 5-10 percent improvement in overall swimming ability from previous findings in 2010.

"We're thrilled that the study revealed improvements with more children getting into swim lessons and in the attitudes on how important learning to swim is for children. That indicates we've made progress by providing low- and no-cost swim lessons and water safety education to families across the country," commented Debbie Hesse, Executive Director of the USA Swimming Foundation.

Certain demographics are still lagging behind, however, as Hesse explains: "The data, especially with 79 percent of children in low-income families having little or no swim ability, shows there is still room to grow. We need to keep a sustained effort to introduce children to swimming and drive the important message that learning to swim can save your life."

Here are some key findings from the study, conducted by the University of Memphis and University of Nevada-Las Vegas:

  • 64 percent of African-American kids have no or low swimming ability.
  • 45 percent of Hispanic kids and 40 percent of Caucasian kids also have no/low swimming ability.
  • 79 percent of kids in families with household incomes of less than $50,000 have no/low swimming ability.
  • 87 percent of kids with no or low ability still plan to go to a swimming facility this summer at least once.
  • 34 percent of these kids plan to swim 10 or more times during the summer.

Kids who don't know swimming basics are obviously at risk for drowning, which is highly concerning. That being said, even when kids know how to swim, parents should always be vigilant about water safety!

Importantly, the study revealed ways we as a society can encourage more swimming participation. Consider that kids with no or low swimming ability would be more likely to participate in swimming if they knew of a talented swimmer who looked like them. And 65 percent of African-American kids say they would like to learn to swim better.

That's where parents can help. Because data showed when parents were good swimmers, their kids were more than four times more likely to also have good swimming ability. And swimming with family members also encourages swimming ability.

It's fear of the water and drowning that seems to be holding many kids back from learning to swim. And there too we see a demographic divide, with African-American kids and their parents being three times more fearful of drowning versus Caucasians.

Consider that kids who know how to be safer around water are more likely to be good swimmers, and that seems to be the major opportunity here. Educating kids about water safety and teaching them swimming basics is clearly key.

"The end goal is to create real solutions designed to ensure children are safer in the water, especially minority youth who are at a higher risk for drowning," confirmed Carol Irwin, Ph.D., of the University of Memphis, the study's principal investigator.

A major initiative of the USA Swimming Foundation is to teach every child in the U.S. how to swim, no matter their race, gender or financial circumstances. Find out more about 'Make a Splash' local providers here.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook and Instagram where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.

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