For every child who dies from drowning, another four are injured in nonfatal drownings, CDC statistics show. Many of the children who survive will face lifetimes of long-term disabilities. Typically, when a child drowns, the parent or caregiver has been away from the child for less than five minutes according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
"The single most effective thing parents can do to protect their children from drowning is to ensure they know how to swim," says Debbie Hesse, executive director of the USA Swimming Foundation. "Learning how to swim is not only a fun way to encourage exercise, it can save a child’s life."
Unfortunately, lack of swimming knowledge is common among American children, especially among minority populations. In fact, seven out of every 10 African-American and Hispanic children cannot swim, according to a national research study by USA Swimming and the University of Memphis. African-American children drown at a rate nearly three times higher than their Caucasian peers, the CDC reports.
To help combat these statistics, the USA Swimming Foundation has granted more than $1.5 million dollars to communities across the nation to help provide free or discounted lessons so that all children will have the opportunity to learn to swim.
This June, the Foundation will launch its annual cross-country water safety tour, Make a Splash with Cullen Jones, presented by ConocoPhillips. The tour aims to raise awareness about the importance of learning to swim. The USA Swimming Foundation offers parents five tips for keeping children safe in and around water this summer:
1. Teach children to swim. It’s the best way to be safer in the water. Research shows that parents are the most influential factors in whether or not a child learns to swim. Only 13 percent of children from non-swimming households will ever learn to swim, according to national research conducted by the University of Memphis for USA Swimming.
2. Make sure a responsible adult is watching the water at all times. Drowning can be completely silent, and most child drownings occur when the victim has been out of sight for less than five minutes.
3. Remind kids to always obey the rules of the pool, not to jump on or dunk other swimmers, and not to jump or dive unless they know how deep the water is.
4. Require kids to always swim with a buddy.
5. Remember, you don’t have to be at a pool to drown. Lakes, rivers, large puddles and any other bodies of water also require caution. Make sure your child knows how to swim, whether or not they’ll be around a pool this summer.
"Swimming is unique in that there is a lifesaving element to it - it can be fun and competitive, but learning to swim can also save a life," Hesse says. "It’s a skill every child needs, and one that every child should have regardless of their social or economic situation."
As part of its Make a Splash water safety initiative, the USA Swimming Foundation, in partnership with ConocoPhillips, is providing resources for families, including swimming lessons that are low cost or even free, depending on a family’s economic need. To find local learn-to-swim groups in your community, visit www.makeasplash.org.