Distracted Vigilance: Tips for Preventing Drownings

Smartphones and distracted at the poolUnaware

On a recent early morning, I awoke to find my 2.5 year old Darling 2 sitting next to me holding the orange juice carton, saying "juice please" "juice please". It took me a minute to fully realize the situation. Apparently, he had gotten up out of bed, decided he wanted some juice and finding me still asleep in bed, decided to bring the carton to me to open for him.

While nothing happened to him or the orange juice and later it seemed comical, it still made me think what if he had unlocked a door and gone outside or opened the dishwasher and gotten a knife out or other equally frightening scenario. DH and I are normally fairly light sleepers when it comes to hearing our kiddos in the night. Neither of them are good sleepers, and it's not uncommon for one or both of them to call out in the night or get out of bed, etc. Yet there are times that I am beyond tired and half asleep before my head hits the pillow. And on those nights or mornings, I'm liable to sleep through Darling 2 getting up to fetch himself some juice.

It only takes a minute for my kids to make huge messes, grab things they shouldn't or get themselves into trouble. They are young children after all. They learn by touching, tasting and trying to do new things on their own. This is why taking precautions and keeping your eyes on your kids near or in a pool is of utmost importance.

Unintentional Drownings

I was reading an article about pool safety that stated in the first four months of 2011 there have already been 37 drownings and 38 near drownings. It occurred to me that many parents, nannies, grandparents and others who are sitting near a pool watching their young charges probably tend to take that time to make a phone call, send a text, a tweet or an email, check Facebook or look up information online. All of these things can be done with ease in virtually any setting thanks to the convenience of today's smartphone.

I have not seen any statistics on the number of drownings that occurred because the person watching the child was preoccupied with his or her phone, but I would be interested to see that information. While this is speculation, it warrants a reminder that one should not do anything that distracts his or her attention from the child(ren) in the pool.

Drowning is silent. There may not be a big splash, thrashing about, screaming or calling for help. If a child accidentally falls into a pool or goes too deep and you aren't paying attention, you might not even realize it until it's too late. If your attention is diverted by your phone conversation or twitter stream, you may be too distracted to even notice a child has fallen in, gone too deep or been trapped under the water.

As the CPSC notes in the tips below, it's important to have a phone nearby the pool area in case of emergency, but the person watching the kids in or near the pool should never be on the phone or using any of the smartphone's applications or capabilities. There are no laws banning using phones around pools, but the same principle applies; our brains are not capable of true multi-tasking.

This means that no matter how long you intend to be on the phone or checking email, etc. during that time you are not focused on your kids in or near the water. In those few minutes, your child could be severely injured or dead.

Pool Safety Tips

Here's what the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) suggests for those who own a pool or have regular access to a pool:

  • Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa
  • Always watch your child when he or she is near the water
  • Teach children basic water safety tips
  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes, etc. to avoid entrapment
  • Keep phone nearby in case of emergency
  • If a child is missing, check the pool first
  • Make sure family, friends and neighbors know the pool safety information
  • Learn to swim and make sure your kids know how to swim
  • Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults
  • Understand the basics of life-saving to assist in a pool emergency
  • Install a 4 ft or taller fence around the pool and spa area with a self-closing or latching gate; ask your neighbors with pools to do the same.
  • Install and use a lockable safety cover on your spa
  • Install door alarms and use them if your house opens up to the pool with no gate between
  • Install pool and gate alarms that alert the adult when children go near the water
  • Check to make sure the drain covers are compliant with CPSC standards*
  • Maintain pool and spa
  • Consider using a surface wave or underwater alarm


The Scoop

As summer nears and more and more people flock to the pools and beaches, it's extremely important to make sure you, your spouse, your kids, your nanny, babysitter, neighbors, parents and anyone else who watches your kids are reminded about the pool safety rules. And remember to be clear about no phone usage at all during pool time. Over and out...

A note about pool drain covers: The CPSC is investigating  the safety of pool and spa drain covers and the adequacy of testing procedures used to determine the flow rating of these covers. They have found the testing protocols used by some laboratories may have been improper and some covers certified by these labs may not comply with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (P&SSAct) and may fail to prevent the hidden hazard of a drain entrapment.  


You might also like:

Phone Down; Eyes Up: Distracted Driving Statistics Update & Driver Challenge

Distracted by Technology: Are Hands-Free Devices in SYNC with Safe Driving?

The Overly Cautious Traveler: Must Read Pool Safety Tips



In order to comment on BlogHer.com, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.