Kids, and adults, should learn to swim


We’re in the middle of summer, and its activities are in full swing, with many involving water: beaches, pools, boating, perhaps trips to a water park. With so much playing in and around so much water, just how many of us have the requisite swimming skills?

Nearly every parent who took part in a Red Cross survey released in May said their children would be involved in water activities this summer, but only 39 percent said their kids ages 4 to 17 possessed the five basic water safety skills: floating for one minute without a flotation device; jumping into water over their heads and returning to the surface; turning completely around to find a way out of the water; getting out of a swimming pool without using a ladder; and swimming the length of a standard pool –– 25 yards –– without stopping.

Of adults who claimed they could swim, only 56 percent said they could perform all five of those skills. The adults who said they couldn’t swim — a category that is far too large in the U.S. — cited fear and lack of access to places where they could learn as the main reasons they hadn’t.

The lack of basic skills can have tragic consequences. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 10 people drown each day, with children 14 or younger accounting for two of those deaths. Most occur in residential swimming pools, but supervised facilities are not exempt. There were 171 reported drowning deaths at regulated swimming pools and beaches in New York state between 1987 and 2010, 14 of them in Nassau County, according to the New York State Department of Health.

The disparity between adults who say they can swim and those who can demonstrate basic swimming skills is telling for swimming instructors and lifeguards. People entering the water are often unaware of what they’re capable of. Six in 10 Americans have never had professional swim lessons, according to the Red Cross survey. We highly recommend that parents enroll their children in swimming or lifesaving classes. It truly can be a matter of life and death. Here’s where they can:

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