Swimming, whether in the pool or at the beach, is one of the activities Filipino families enjoy doing together all year-round. But while seeing your little one splash around the water is exciting, experts advise that you should never ever let your child leave your eyesight when he is in the water. That includes staying in the poolside for a quick glance on your smartphone as an international lifeguard organization claims there is a direct link between child drownings and their parents’ smartphone usage.
According to The Guardian, the German Lifeguard Association, which is the biggest lifeguard organization in the world, with over 40,000 volunteer lifeguards stationed in Germany’s lakefronts and beaches, issued a warning to adults after more than 300 drownings occurred in the country in 2018. The association states that when children experience trouble in the water, parents do not notice right away as they are too busy looking at their gadgets to notice.
“We’re experiencing on a daily basis that people treat swimming pools like a kindergarten and simply don’t pay attention,” said Peter Harzheim of the German federation of swimming pool supervisors.
“In the past, parents and grandparents spent more time with their children in the swimming pool. But increasing numbers of parents are fixated by their smartphones and are not looking left or right, let alone paying attention to their children,” Harzheim told the German media. “It’s sad that parents behave so neglectfully these days.”
Sadly, Germany is not the only country to have experienced such incidents. In Abu Dhabi, two boys drowned in separate incidents in June 2018, which prompted the Abu Dhabi Police to issue a warning to not leave children unattended while swimming. In the United States, a mother from Texas was charged for the death of her three children after witnesses reported she was on her phone and not paying attention while the kids were swimming in the apartment complex pool.
In the Philippines, drowning is a public health issue with an average of 3,276 accidental drownings and submersion occurring annually in the Philippines between 2006-2013, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization. In December 2018, two children drowned in a resort in General Santos City, South Cotabato after jumping into an adult-sized pool. Their parents were not with them when it happened.
It takes only a few inches of water for a young child to drown, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. So drowning does not just happen in large bodies of water — even your house can contain drowning hazards, including common household items like buckets, pet bowls, and coolers.
We may think that a quick timeout to look at our phones won’t do any harm, especially in the pool or beach. We’ve secured our kids with flotation devices or have left them in the care of an older sibling, which experts advise against (a child should always be supervised closely by an adult at all times). But these stories show that accidents happen in an instant.
We might think that a quick timeout to look at our phones won’t do any harm, especially in the pool or beach, where we’ve secured our kids with flotation devices or have left them in the care of an older sibling But these stories show that accidents happen in an instant.
“I don’t think parents understand how quickly and quietly drowning occurs,” says Sharon Evans, Trauma Injury Prevention and Outreach coordinator for Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. “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.”
Smartphones provide distraction and relief to exhausted parents, but if the safety of your child becomes an issue, you should definitely choose to put your phone down. Always keep your eye on your child when you’re in the water. Being present is not enough — you have to keep observing the water and not your gadget. Remember: glancing at a phone notification is not worth the risk of losing your child.