Fort Worth, Texas,

Grownups be smart: Put down the phone at the pool

Safety experts plead for 100 percent supervision while kids swim

Forgive the safety experts at Cook Children’s if they are coming across as bossy or even condemning, but they are at their wits’ end trying to find a message that stop the tragic amounts of drownings over the past two summers.

The month of June 2016 concluded with 24 children seen at Cook Children’s for drowning and three of those children died.

Last year on the Fourth of July (the day, not the weekend), six children were seen at Cook Children’s for drowning. Fortunately, they all survived but for month of July in 2015, two children died at Cook Children’s and a total of 23 kids were seen for drowning.

Now as we head into the busy Fourth of July weekend, the safety experts at Cook Children’s say kids can’t afford anything less than 100 percent adult supervision at the pool at all times. That means not taking your eyes off of a child while he or she is in the water.

And perhaps there’s no greater competition for grownup's attention than their smartphone.

“We understand the need for a phone at the pool, in case of emergencies, but those phones need to be put away until you leave the swimming area,” said Dana Walraven, Community Health Outreach manager at Cook Children’s and Safe Kids Tarrant County Coordinator. “Parents should only be spending time watching their kids and not on the phone.”

Smartphones have changed the way we look at the world, but it’s also made it much easier to be distracted and not pay attention to what is happening right in front of us.

Nonfatal injuries to children under age 5 rose 12 percent between 2007 and 2010, after injury rates were steadily falling the previous decade. During that same time period, smartphone users increased from 9 million in mid-2007 to 63 million at the end of 2010.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 1,100 people a day are injured in car crashes that involved a distracted driver.

Sharon Evans, Trauma Injury Prevention/Outreach coordinator for Cook Children’s Medical Center says she would like to see similar research into distracted adults and drownings.

But she doesn’t need stats to know that it’s the adult’s responsibility to stay focused on the children, and nothing else, while they are swimming.

“Parents are distracted enough with people around them talking, eating and everything going on in their lives. After a hard day they may even zone out for a little while. But parents can’t afford to be distracted and that includes using their smart phones while their child is in the water,” Evans said. “I don’t think parents understand how quickly and quietly drowning occurs. There is no thrashing, no yelling for help. The drowning child is just trying to push down on the water to get their head above the surface to gasp a breath of air.”

As we head into the holiday again, Walraven reminds parents it takes only two seconds for a drowning to occur.

She encourages any adult watching children at the pool, including parents grandparents, family friends or babysitters, to use Water Watcher system if possible where the grownups at the pool take shifts with the sole responsibility of keeping an eye on the children swimming at all times.

They are expected to stay sober and focused during their 15 minute shift or if they are the only one out there, to stay alert the whole time. This isn't a job for kids, even older children. Walraven said this is a job solely for the adults. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of a teen. The younger person may be easily distracted, have trouble pulling the child out of the water and in case of a fatal drowning, the child could be scarred for life.

“This is definitely a job for a grownup, but that means acting like an adult,” Walraven said. “Many drownings occur when a caregiver is present. But being ‘present’ or being ‘there’ is not enough, you have to watch and be involved. Drowning is silent so keep your eyes on the water, not the phone. A text is not worth the risk and it’s certainly not worth your child losing his or her life.”

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photo:Jeff Calaway
Jeff Calaway
Senior Content Specialist
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