Teens are much more likely to swim in open water without lifeguards, like lakes, rivers and the ocean. Peer pressure may cause your teen to try risky new activities they might not be ready for.
As your role shifts, set firm rules for your teen’s safety while in and around water. Support your teen by helping them to know the risks and be skilled in the water.
Misjudge their swimming ability. Teens have drowned while trying to swim across a lake or river. Cold water and currents can overpower the skills of even a good swimmer or athlete. The conditions can take away their strength before they know it.
Dive, swing or jump into shallow water or are not aware of hazards or objects that can’t be seen from the surface. Teens are more likely than any other age group to suffer diving injuries, many of which result in spinal cord damage or death.
Delay getting help. Teens most often drown when they are with friends. Teens have died because their friends didn’t know they were in trouble or thought they were joking and then did not know how to respond.
Use alcohol or drugs around water. One half of all drownings in teen males are tied to alcohol use. Alcohol affects judgement and swimming skills. It, also, increases the effects of hypothermia.
Boat or swim in unguarded water without a life jacket.
Are not aware of the dangers of cold water and currents. Swimming in open water is not like swimming in a pool.
If your teen is not a strong swimmer, sign them up for lessons. Knowing how to float, tread water and swim to safety are critical survival skills. Ask about teen-only swim lessons or options for taking adult lessons.
Know where your teen is going and have a system for checking in. Tell them it’s important to swim in guarded areas and to use the buddy system.
Practice problem-solving with your teen. “It is a warm April night and your buddies want to go swimming at a local beach; you don’t feel ok going along. What can you do?
Know the water. Water in lakes and rivers can be cold enough to cause hypothermia, even in the summer and among the strongest swimmers. Hypothermia can happen in minutes. It occurs when the body temperature lowers. This leads to a loss of the strength that is needed to swim. A life jacket can reduce heat loss, keep you afloat and more than double survival time.
Talk with your teen about diving into shallow or unknown water. The first entry into any water should be feet first. Teach them to only dive in water that is at least nine feet deep.
Spend time as a family talking about how to stay safe by identifying risks like cold water, high water, river and rip currents. Check into local recreation and outdoor programs that teach outdoor water safety.
Get your teen a life jacket
Pick out a life jacket with your teen. There are many comfortable and stylish models available, including inflatable life jackets. Have your teen wear it when boating or swimming in a lake or river that has no lifeguard.
Be a role model while boating. Wear a life jacket yourself and don’t drink alcohol. Teens are more likely to wear a life jacket if you do, too.