Active Supervision, the Unsung Hero

Ask 100 parents if they supervise their kids, and I bet every last one will say they do.

Unfortunately, as someone who works in public health, my lie detector would start beeping immediately. I know better. It’s not that parents don’t love their kids or even do a reasonably good job watching them; it’s that many don’t really know what it means to actively supervise a child, particularly when it comes to bath tubs, backyard pools and hot tubs, and open bodies of water.

It’s simple: Active supervision—being within an arm’s reach either in or near water --can be the difference between life and death for a child. Last week, I watched a heart-wrenching story unfold on television that proves my point exactly, active supervision saves lives. This video, “Pool Heroes”, tells the story of a 3-year-old girl whose arm got caught and sucked into one of the pool’s drain outlets. While there are still details being investigated as to how the and what type of mechanism entrapped her, a critical (and again, understated) piece was that her mother was right near her while swimming and was able to immediately come to her rescue. She kept the child calm and held her head above water until emergency responders arrived.

The firefighters, who arrived on the scene and eventually freed the little girl, spoke about how instrumental and crucial it was that the mother was practicing supervision: “her mom truly saved her life…if mom was too far away or not paying attention…sometimes we get to an incident where the victims had a chance to be saved and weren’t and in this case the mom really took action and made the difference.”

While I’m sure more facts will emerge from this incident, I’m less certain if the media and others interested in this story will discuss—or even merely mention—how vital it was that the girl’s mother was actively watching her in the first place. And in the larger picture, it makes me think: how many accidents were prevented altogether because mom or dad was practicing one of the best measures we know that works and stand by here at Safe Kids: active supervision.

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