Poll: More than one-third of parents let children swim unsupervised

A child's water independence and likelihood of taking formal swim lessons differed based on the parent's race and ethnicity.
By Amy Wallace  |  Updated May 15, 2017 at 2:36 PM
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May 15 (UPI) -- A new national poll found more than one-third of parents would allow their children to be in residential or hotel pools unsupervised.

The poll, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, found parents underestimate the risk of drowning in pools where no lifeguard is present.

Drowning is the second-leading cause of injury-related death in kids between age 1 and 15, and about 1,000 American children die each year from unintentional drowning.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there was an annual average of 3,536 fatal, non-boating related unintentional drownings from 2005 to 2014 in the United States -- about 10 deaths per day.

About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 or younger, and for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency medical care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

The poll included responses from 1,543 parents about their children, all of whom were between the ages of 6 and 18.

The poll, the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, found that only 16 percent of parents would allow their child to swim unsupervised in a lake and just 13 percent in an ocean, but 37 percent of parents would allow their child to swim unsupervised in a home, hotel or neighborhood pool.

"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," Dr. Gary L. Freed, pediatrician at Mott, said in a press release. "Drownings can, and do, happen in private and hotel pools as well as in lakes and the ocean -- even at shallow depths. Swimming lessons and proper supervision are critical to making sure kids are safe around the water."

The poll showed that the likelihood of a child taking swim lessons and swimming independently varied based on race and ethnicity.

More than half of white parents, 55 percent, said their child should take swimming lessons compared to 39 percent of Hispanic and 37 percent of black parents. The reasons they gave for not taking swim lessons included that the child learned without lessons, they cost too much, location was not convenient or not available in their area, or lessons were not a priority.

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