Swim Safety for children and young people

In my everyday job I work with young people and young adults. I have been thinking about how to share or provide information about water safety to those who are most at risk from the water. Unfortunately incidents happen, and if you are a young male you are much more likely to be involved in an accident in open water than other groups of people. 

The latest figures from the Water Incident Database (WAID), which is maintained by the National Water Safety Forum, also show:

  •  Inland open waters, such as rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs and quarries continue to be the leading locations with 58 per cent (139) of deaths 
  •  Males continue to over represent with 78 per cent (199) of death

This information is taken from a 2021 article by Swim England that can be found here

I believe that people learn about risks by exploring and experiencing the world around them. For water safety that may sound scary as a parent, however teaching children and young people to respect the water is really valuable and will provide them with a baseline to make informed decisions later in their life. 

What can Parents do? 

Make sure your child learns to swim. Its a vital life skill. 

If you cannot swim and you are a parent please learn. How can you support your child with this essential skill if you cannot do it yourself? 

I would encourage paddling, messing about in water, swimming and enjoying the water in sheltered and shallow spot from an early age.

As your child grows up use days out, holidays and weekends as time for water adventures. Explore different places to swim or paddle, visit the seaside, waterfalls and ponds. 

Talk about where its safe to swim, and where its not ok to swim.

Build water confidence. 

Read my blog about outdoor swim safety for children (I need to write this!) 

Young People and Risk Taking.

In my local town its almost a right of passage for 15 and 16 year old's to go to "pebble beach" after school or in the summer with friends. Groups of young people want to have fun away from adults or parents and will go to places where others congregate. 

Its important to recognise that the likelihood of an incident is low, however with sunshine, peer pressure, alcohol or drugs then the risk from the water increase. 

I would encourage any parent of a young person to continue water activities and swimming in to teen years. Ongoing exploration and experiences will provide a great grounding for decision making in the future. 


Checklist for Outdoor Swimming for Young People 

- Have you told an adult where you are going? 

- Remember the water is cold, go in slowly and get used to it. 

- Do you know where you can get in and get out safely? 

- Think carefully about drinking alcohol or taking drugs before you swim. They can affect your judgment and also your ability to swim and body temperature. This can be dangerous. 

- Do you know your swimming spot, where is deep water, what are the obstacles, where do you need to stay away from? 

- If you want to jump in then check your landing spot before you jump. Don't assume its safe to jump because you jumped there before, or your mate was fine after jumping. 

- Do you know how to rest and keep yourself safe? 

- Do you know how to help someone who is in trouble? 

To look after yourself and keep safe, follow these two key pieces of advice:

    • If you get into trouble in the in the water, Float to Live. Lean back and use your arms and legs to help you float, then get control of your breathing before calling for help or swimming to safety.
    • If you see someone else in trouble in the water, call 999 or 112. If you are the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland, ask for the fire service. 
              From #RespectTheWater Campaign 

Safety Advice for Open Water Swimming 

National Water Safety Forum