Teen Water Safety: Keeping Adolescents Safe in and Around Water

This article is influenced by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), aiming to ensure that their important message reaches you.

Surprisingly, the risk of drowning actually increases during adolescence, making it the second-highest age group for fatal drownings. Only toddlers face a higher risk than teenagers (ages 15-19). As your child enters their teenage years, ensuring water safety becomes even more challenging. This is because many teenagers enjoy spending time with friends at pools or beaches, often away from direct supervision.

Several factors contribute to this increase:

  1. Overestimation and underestimation: Adolescents tend to overestimate their swimming abilities while underestimating dangerous situations. Their developing brains may lead them to take risks and seek peer approval, even if they lack proper skills and experience.
  2. Substance use: Substance use becomes more prevalent during adolescence, with alcohol being a significant risk factor in drowning incidents. Alcohol consumption while swimming or boating contributes to a considerable percentage of recreational water-related deaths among U.S. adolescents.
  3. Natural water risks: While younger children are more likely to drown in swimming pools, teens face a higher risk in natural bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, and oceans. Fatal drowning rates in natural water are over three times higher for adolescents aged 15-17 compared to children aged 5-9.

To ensure your teen’s safety in and around water, consider the following measures recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

  1. Learn to swim: It’s never too late for your family, including teens, to acquire basic swim and water survival skills.
  2. Maintain supervision: Remember that knowing how to swim doesn’t guarantee complete safety. Teach your teen to swim only where lifeguards are on duty and to never swim alone. Encourage them to use the buddy system, even in large groups.
  3. Enter water feet first: Emphasize the importance of entering the water feet first and being aware of the water’s depth. This approach helps them identify potential hazards like rocks beneath the surface. 
  4. Choose swimming spots wisely: Educate your teen about the differences between swimming in natural water and pools. Teach them to stick to designated swimming areas with lifeguards and to avoid beaches with hazardous conditions like strong waves or rip currents. 
  5. Stay sober on the water: Discuss the dangers of alcohol and drugs while being in or on the water. Explain how these substances impair swimming skills, coordination, balance, and judgment, increasing the risk of hypothermia.

For more recommendations, click here to read the article by the American Academy of Pediatrics.


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