You may feel a sense of relief once your teen learns to hold her own in the pool, but that doesn’t mean nothing can go wrong. Just this month, a teen from Brick drowned in a lagoon off Barnegat Bay at a birthday party. Your kid will never get too old for you to worry about water risks and safety. Sadly, a 32-year-old man from Parsippany also drowned this month in Lake Hopatcong.
It turns out adolescents ages 15-19 have the second highest fatal drowning rate of any age group besides toddlers ages 12-36 months, according to healthychildren.org, a site developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Why? Teens are more independent, so they’re more likely to be hanging at the pool, beach or lake without an adult present. And, of course, the decision-making part of teens’ heads isn’t completely developed, so they’re more likely to overestimate their swimming abilities or not see the true risk in a potentially dangerous situation.
That’s if they’re sober: Add alcohol to the mix and the risk is even higher. Drinking while swimming or boating is a major factor in 30 to 70 percent of recreational water deaths in US teens, according to the AAP. Is your teen swimming in natural water rather than a pool? The risk of a fatal drowning is three times higher for teens ages 15-17 than kids ages 5-9.
Here are some tips from the AAP to keep your teens safe in the water this summer:
- Just because your teen knows how to swim doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye on them. Keep supervising as often as possible and be sure a lifeguard is on duty if you can’t be there.
- If your teen isn’t the strongest swimmer, put them in swim lessons for teens and adults.
- Make sure your teen knows to never swim alone.
- Teach them to enter the water feet first to avoid permanent or fatal spinal injuries (respect no diving signs!)
- Be vigilant and extra careful at the beach (avoid waves and rip currents, stay away from boats and people fishing, stay visible to lifeguards)
- Always wear life jackets while boating, jet skiing or on a watercraft (no, tubes and rafts don’t count!)
- Urge your teen to stay sober when they hit the water (you, too)
It also doesn’t hurt to get yourself and the rest of your family CPR certified.