Water Safety for Teens
May 18, 2023
By Amber Kroeker
With summer around the corner and temperatures warming, it's the time of year when adolescents are counting down the days for school to be out for the summer so they can have fun with friends.
Parents may not realize that their teenager has a greater risk around water because they are more likely to overestimate their skills and underestimate dangerous situations. While teens lack experience and engage in risk-taking behaviors, they also tend to feel invincible, which can lead to hazardous situations in the water.
Adolescence is a time of growth and experimentation for teens ages 12 to 18, which may include experimentation with alcohol and other drugs that impair judgment. Risk-taking behaviors are particularly dangerous around natural water, including lakes, rivers, and the ocean, where visibility is diminished.
According to statistics, the rate of fatal drownings in natural water for teens 15 to 17 years old is more than three times higher than for children who are between 5 and 9 years old.
Every year, teens congregate near our local waterways to enjoy summer. The health education team at Randall Children's Hospital at Legacy Emanuel encourages families to openly discuss water safety with their adolescents. Here are some tips to empower teens to have fun while safely enjoying our beautiful local waterways.
Tips for parents:
Make sure your teen knows how to swim. Check for local resources for swim lessons. Many organizations offer swim lessons specifically geared toward teens and adults. Your teen may even enjoy lessons enough to continue with lifeguard training, reinforcing their water safety skills.
Near natural water, in the ocean, or while boating, your teen should wear a life jacket. Adolescents should always wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets whenever they are in or on boats, jet skis, and other watercraft. Adults should role model appropriate water safety by wearing their own U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets and being ready to help in an emergency.
We encourage teens to never swim alone.
Talk to your teen about how alcohol and drugs make being in or on the water more dangerous. Adolescents should never swim if they have ingested substances that would decrease their decision-making skills.
Drowning is silent and can happen in a split second. It can be too late by the time an adolescent who is drowning is noticed by their peers.
Teens should be educated in rescue techniques before coming to the aid of a friend in trouble. Teenagers have drowned trying to save a friend. Always ensure your teen is swimming with a friend or adult who has CRP training.
Encourage your teen to enter the water feet first. While it may be tempting to dive into the water headfirst, water depth can be deceiving. Going in feet first helps teens know whether there are underwater hazards like large rocks that can't be seen from the surface. Make sure they look for ― and follow ― any "No Diving" instructions posted.
Know your local laws about teens operating watercraft. Ensure your teen knows never to rely on inflatable tubes and rafts as life preservers.
The Randall Children's Hospital Childhood Safety and Injury Prevention program is hosting a free teen swim event on Saturday, June 24 at the Matt Dishman Community Center from 5:45-7:45 p.m.