Parents Don't Know as Much About Water Safety as They Think They Do

New research shows we still have serious misconceptions about how to prevent drowning.

Kids swimming in a pool
Photo: Shutterstock

When I was a kid, my siblings and I spent most of our summer days in the pool. Whether it was at the neighbor's house across the street or at the community pool 10 minutes away, we were always splashing in the water. And while we all had taken swim lessons, my mom was adamant about pool safety. We were never scared of the water, but we knew that we had to be careful—an important lesson, especially in light of Safe Kids Worldwide's new research, which was supported by Nationwide's Make Safe Happen program.

Their new research found that in 2014, 784 children fatally drowned in the U.S., with two-thirds of these deaths occurring between May and August. Additionally, more than half of these deaths were children under 5. In fact, drowning is the leading cause of death among preventable injuries for this age group.

The report also found that location factors greatly into drowning risk. For children 1 to 4 years old, the highest risk place is the pool—exactly where many families spend large chunks of their summer.

The study of 1,000 parents of 1 to 12 year olds found that parents still have several dangerous misconceptions that can lead to an increased risk of drowning. They include: the belief that you can hear when a child starts to drown; that it's okay to leave a child unsupervised for a few minutes; and that taking swim lessons is enough to prevent drowning. The parents surveyed also depended too much on lifeguards to protect their children.

Safe Kids recommends keeping your eyes on the kids at all times when they're in the water, as well as having your kids practice this important five-step water survival skill:

  1. Step or jump into water over their heads.
  2. Return to the surface and float or tread water for one minute.
  3. Turn in a full circle and find an exit.
  4. Swim 25 yards to the exit.
  5. Exit from the water (without a ladder in the case of a pool).

In addition, parents can also take CPR training, designate a Water Watcher (an adult who will constantly supervise swimming), or download a safety app, like the one provided by Make Safe Happen.

Riyana Straetker is an editorial assistant at Parents. Follow her on Twitter @riyanastraetker.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles