More than a third of US parents would let their child swim unsupervised

By Alice Richard
Wednesday, 14 June, 2017

More than a third of parents would allow their child to swim in a pool without adult supervision, a poll from the US has found.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health found that, while very few parents reported that they’d let their child swim unsupervised in a lake (16%) or the ocean (13%), a full 37% said they were okay with their child being in a residential, hotel or neighbourhood pool without adult supervision. The poll also found that the likelihood of a child taking swimming lessons and swimming independently differed based on the race and ethnicity of the parent.

Among the parents surveyed who said their child can swim independently, 45% said they would allow the child to swim in a pool unsupervised, compared with 14% of parents whose children cannot swim independently.

“Almost all of the parents we polled believe it is important for children to have basic swimming skills but, surprisingly, one in seven would allow a child who is unable to swim independently to be in the water unsupervised,” said poll co-director and Mott paediatrician Gary L Freed, MD, MPH.

Of the parents surveyed, 80% of white parents said their child can swim independently, compared to 66% of Hispanic and 49% of black parents. More than half of the white parents surveyed (55%) said their child has taken swimming lessons, compared with only 39% of Hispanic and 37% of black parents.

The racial/ethnic breakdown of swimming lesson attendance is mirrored in drowning statistics, the University of Michigan said, with black children drowning in pools at 5.5 times the rate of white children.

Reasons for not sending children to swimming lessons included cost of lessons, inconvenience of time or location, classes not being available in the local area and classes not being a priority for the survey participants.

“We know that formal swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning among children, but some families may have to work harder to find opportunities for their children to become comfortable and confident in the water,” said Freed.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health surveyed 1543 parents of children aged six to 18. To learn more about the poll results, click here.

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