Kids swimming aids have long been seen as a useful tool in getting children used to the water and teaching them to swim. The wide range of swim aids also allows these devices to help swimmers of various levels of competency and age groups. Even toddlers as young as six months are now seen in the water. This is quite understandable, because swimming helps to increase the pace of development of cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, coordination and spatial awareness of children. However, many parents are unaware of the hidden risks associated with using swimming aids.
Swimming Aids Are Not Safety Devices
One of the most common misconceptions about swimming aids is that they are safety devices – this couldn’t be further from the truth. While the products provide some level of buoyancy, they are not designed to prevent drowning. This is why some swimming aid manufacturers indicate on the label that their products should not be used as a lifesaving device.
Commercial lifejackets, which are in fact designed to prevent drowning, have buoyancy ratings of between 50N and 275N. One N, or Newton, is capable of supporting 0.225 lb of water weight. So a 50N life jacket is theoretically capable of supporting a small child afloat. Swimming aids, on the other hand, are not required to have buoyancy ratings or certifications. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to categorise swimming aids as toys.
False Sense of Security
Parents and even their children attain a false sense of security when using swimming aids. They are operating under the false assumption that the aids can prevent injuries and fatalities. This is not true.
Take kids swimming arm bands as an example. They can easily slide off, pop and deflate, and parents might not be immediately aware of the extreme danger their children are in. Drowning is silent, and by the time that they are aware of the crisis, it might already be too late. In addition, the children themselves might not understand the relationship between the arm bands and their ability to bounce quickly back to the water surface, so they might even take them off due to discomfort. In certain situations, children could also be at the risk of drowning despite wearing functioning arm bands, e.g., when they are in a horizontal position and their head is submerged underwater.
Another example is floating neck rings or neck floaties, which is a ring-like inflatable device affixed around the neck of infants. Neck floaties have become quite popular in recent years as they allow infants to float unaided in water. However, the risk of neck injuries from sudden nearby movement or splashing is very high. Moreover, infants’ head can also potentially slide down the ring hole leaving them completely submerged underwater. Since their lung capacity is very low, death could occur in just seconds.
So, should parents continue to use swimming aids for their children?
Yes, parents can continue to let their children use swimming aids under two conditions:
- They are fully aware of the dangers associated with using swimming aids and floatation devices
- They are constantly watching their children when in water.