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5 survival skills for children swimming in open water

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the holiday weekend approaches, many families will head to area beaches and lakes to enjoy the brief break from the rain.

Parents are encouraged to keep in a mind the dangers of swimming in open water. 

According to a new report from Safe Kids Worldwide, families need to pay more attention to swimming safety- especially in open water.

80 percent of drownings in rivers, lakes, ponds and oceans are boys. The risk of kids drowning actually increases with age, according to the report. Teenagers, between the ages of 15 to 19 make up nearly half of all open water deaths. In 2016,  more than 1,000 children died from drowning. That’s the highest rate since 2011. 70 percent of those deaths took place between May and August.

Dangers of Open Water 

More children drown in open water than in swimming pools, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.

Don’t assume your child is safe in open water just because they can swim in a pool.

Kids who learn to swim in a pool are in a controlled environment with still water. But bringing those skills to lakes, rivers, ponds and the ocean is a different story.

There are hidden hazards like sudden drops, dangerous currents, and limited visibility that could turn a fun day into a deadly accident.

“Open water is a whole different scenario so they need to be a strong swimmer and they need to be able to stay calm and realize that they can get out of that on their own.  Really the message is always the same for us- swim near a lifeguard,” said Captain Rob Emahiser with Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue.

KIDS: 5 Survival Skills to Know

Safe Kids Worldwide says parents should make sure their kids are able to:

  • Jump into water over their head—and return to the surface
  • Turn to face safety
  • Float or tread water for at least 30 seconds
  • Swim forward while breathing
  • Make it to shore and get out of the water safely
  • Swimming in open water can be a lot more intimidating than swimming in a pool- especially for the little ones. 

    PARENTS: Avoid This Mistake

    According to Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue, the number one mistake they see parents make at the beach on busy weekends is losing their kids.

    "At the park, kids run around… but on the beach, it all looks the same. It’s all sand and buildings that you are not familiar with especially as a kid,” said Emahiser.

    It may sound obvious, but if you’re heading out here to the beach with kids, you need to assign someone to keep eyes on their every move.

    Keep them from getting lost and having an accident. Most importantly, watch the water. 

    “You don’t use your cell phone, you don’t read a book, and don’t talk to people… your job for whatever period of time is just to watch those kids in the water,” said Emahiser.

    If your kids are playing down by the shore, be down there with them instead of watching from a distance. Have your cellphone in hand or nearby in case of an emergency.

    Antonia Pineda makes sure she does exactly that when she is at the beach with her family. She stays close to her four-year-old son and makes it a point to never look away.

    “My mom always did that when we were growing up and we used to like to go deep in the water so she was literally next to us. It didn’t matter if we were like in the shore or in, she was always with us. Never leave your kid alone,” said Antonia Pineda.


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