When it comes to pool time, there are lots of safety measures that parents need to keep in mind. Besides pool fences and alarms, here’s one more to remember: don’t use your phone by the pool!

These days, it can feel like our cell phones come with us everywhere. They are our window to the outside world as we contact friends, read the news, update social media and take photos. Besides the fact that most phones aren’t water-proof, there’s another risk to a poolside phone beyond broken electronics. For anyone watching kids swim, using a phone by the pool can be a serious distraction. This can easily result in tragedy.

Let’s go over why it is so important to leave the phone behind when you’re by the water, and how you can be a proactive supervisor for your little swimmers.

Parents are Human. They Get Distracted.

When a parent is confident in their child’s swimming abilities, they may assume that the child can handle themselves in the water. In this case, the parent may stop paying close enough attention.  This can be a mistake that has dire consequences.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has cited research that found that parents are generally distracted when watching their children. The study observed caregivers with their children in New York City playgrounds and found that the caregiver was distracted during 74 percent of the observed occurrences – the majority of these caregivers were talking with others or using electronic devices.

When, in the summer of 2018, there were more than 300 drownings in Germany, the German Lifeguard Association issued a statement that pointed to the source for the high number in drownings: parents being distracted by their phones.

One major finding of the AAP study showed that the children whose caregivers were distracted were significantly more likely to engage in risky behaviors.  In a pool, risky behavior can lead to death in a matter of minutes.

Drowning is Quick and Quiet

Unfortunately, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related deaths among children aged one through four. Unlike the movies will lead you to believe, drowning is quick and quiet. When someone is drowning, they often can’t call for help because they are gasping for air. They also aren’t splashing loudly because their arms are likely at their sides as they try to push themselves up.  If you are looking down at your phone, it could be very easy to miss the fact that someone is in trouble. To make matters worse, it only takes a few short minutes for someone to drown.

The Solution: Active Supervision

Even the best swimmers can get into trouble in the water.  They can get trapped, dehydrated or injured.  All of these scenarios can lead to a drowning situation.  Whenever a child is in the pool, there should be an “active supervisor” on guard.

Here are a few tips for being the best supervisor possible:

  • No Distractions: Whoever is supervising should not just simply be in the vicinity of the pool. The adult should be actively watching the swimmers in case someone is in need of assistance. This requires constant attention, so put down those phones!
  • CPR-Ready: Any adults who are watching the swimmers should be trained in CPR. You never know when you will need this life saving skill.
  • Remain at Arm’s Length: If an infant is in the pool, an adult should be in the water with them. In fact, the adult should always stay within arm’s reach.
  • Always Be Watching: As we mentioned above, drowning is quiet, so keep an active eye at all times on any swimmers in the pool.
  • Trade Off: Adults can trade off in this role so that no one person gets burdened with the responsibility or gets distracted after a long period of time.