What's a Water Watcher Tag? How One Item in Every Household Can Help Prevent Drownings
Water Watchers are adults designated to watch children who are in or around water at all times. They should have no distractions, this means no phone, magazines, books, eating, or conversing with friends.
By Emma Pignato
While you’re having fun by the pool this summer, ensure your pool safety plan includes a Water Watcher: an adult who is designated to watch children around the pool at all times. Drowning is silent, so it’s vital to designate a Water Watcher when children are around all bodies of water - swimming pools, kiddie pools, lakes, or the beach. Kids can drown in just 2 inches of water.
Cook Children’s created a wearable Water Watcher tag to ensure that the adult wearing the tag is in charge of watching the children in or near water. Fifteen-minute shifts are recommended for the Water Watchers. During that time, the designated Water Watcher should have no distractions, this means no phone, magazines, books, eating, alcohol or conversing with friends. The only time a phone should be used is during an emergency to call 911. After 15 minutes, pass the tag to the next adult in charge.
Cook Children’s Medical Advisor for Digital Health, Diane Arnaout, M.D., explained the importance of having an assigned adult at all times, especially now that summer is in full swing and social gatherings are held around bodies of water.
“I have a pool myself and we love to have friends over," Dr. Arnaout said. “It’s so easy to talk yourself into thinking your children are being watched when you’re in a group of 12 people because six adults certainly seem like more than two adults watching the kids, so certainly it’s more secure. But the problem is it’s actually less secure.”
Dr. Arnaout also noted that it does not have to be the official Cook Children’s tag, yet the rules remain the same. People can use a rubber band, bracelet or a hair tie as a substitute.
“By using the Water Watcher tags, it basically says the wearer of this does not play on their phone, does not drink, does not talk to other friends at the time - their sole job is to watch children at all times,” Dr. Arnaout said.
Water Watchers add an extra layer of protection to prevent children from drowning. Swimming lessons are just one layer of protection and do not guarantee safety. Even strong swimmers can drown, so always designate a Water Watcher.
Other extra layers of protection include maintaining barriers to and around the pool, keeping pools clear of toys attractive to little ones when not in use, having a designated water watcher and wearing a life jacket.
A Water Watcher tag can be found in many of Cook Children’s pediatrician offices. Call your pediatrician to get one to use next time you're at the pool. You can also reach out to the Lifeguard Your Child department and one will be mailed.
When wearing the Water Watcher tag, you have one job and one job only - Lifeguard Your Child.
To get a Water Watcher tag of your own, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow this link: Water Safety Product Order (jotform.com)
Lifeguard Your Child began in 2016 and continues its regional collaboration, led by Cook Children’s, to prevent drownings in North Texas. The campaign aligns consistent messages and educational goals across our region. Together with community partners across 11 counties, we work year-round to provide education, Water Watcher tags, swim lessons, life jackets and other prevention tools to families.
The Lifeguard Your Child campaign is spread through the Safe Kids North Texas Coalition, which is based in Fort Worth and led by Cook Children’s.
The campaign’s strategies include Cook Children’s Loaner Life Jacket Stations at many lake entry points across the region. Families can go to the stations to find U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets in a variety of sizes with easy tips for a proper fit.
Safety tips for home swimming pools:
- Assign a water watcher, aka an adult who will commit to 100% supervision of children in and around water.
- Restrict access by installing door locks high out of children’s reach. Door and window alarms can signal if someone leaves the house.
- Install four-sided fencing around pools with a self-latching gate that only opens out. The fence should be at least 4 feet (preferably 5 feet) high.
- Remove all toys and floats from the pool area so children are not tempted to get close to the water.
- For above-ground pools, make sure the ladder is removed and not accessible when it’s not swimming time.
- Consider a pool surface alarm to alert if anyone/anything falls into the water.
Safety tips for the bathtub:
- An adult must stay at the side of the tub in reach of the child.
- Pay attention. This is not the time for multitasking.
- Ignore distractions like the doorbell or phone calls.
- Drain the tub after each use.