As soon as the Summer months start to roll around, every person and their mother makes a beeline for their nearest body of water, whether it's a pool, lake, or ocean. And you know what all of those water venues have in common? There are oodles of kids! And while we love seeing little ones getting their swim on, unfortunately there are a lot of dangerous elements at the pool, and believe it or not, letting your kids wear floaties is one of them.
"[Arm] floaties are not for kids. They slip off, they deflate, and unfortunately, they can give parents a false sense of security," said Dr. Tom Griffiths, the president and founder of the Aquatic Safety Research Group. "Arm floaties are cheap and popular, but they are not a life-saving device."
Contrary to popular belief, floaties shouldn't even be used by children who aren't considered to be strong swimmers in the first place. Rachel Griffths, the communication director at the Aquatic Safety Research Group, thinks it's important to point out this common misconception to parents.
"Arm floaties should actually not be used at all for children who are not strong swimmers because they can deflate or fall off. As children gain more experience in the water and begin learning to swim, they can use 'swim aids' such as swim vests, still with supervision. With little to no experience, however, only USCG life jackets should be used."
And the issue of supervision in the water is seriously no joke. Jim Spiers, the founder of SwimJim in New York and Texas and the president of Stop Drowning Now, wants parents to know that at the end of the day, their eyeballs are the most important safety tool they have at their disposal.
"Floatation devices are not a substitute for a parent or guardian. With that being said, unless the floaties are specifically Coast Guard-approved, I wouldn't recommend them." The type of floaties you should be keeping an eye out for this season? Puddle-jumpers, which are essentially floaties on steroids, have a soft body component along with the seal of approval from the Coast Guard.
"Parents should also be following the arm's-length rule, which means staying within an arm's length of a child who is a non-swimmer at all times, regardless of the type of body of water you're in."
And if you're not physically in the water with your kiddos, Jim suggests investing in a water watcher tag, which is a wearable tag that parents can use to make sure someone has an eye on the children at all times. For the designated adult in change, that means no cell phone use, excessive chit-chat, or reading while you're keeping an eye on the kids.
The bottom line as far as the experts are concerned? Nothing can replace supervision. "Supervision should be the beginning and end all of water safety," said Jim. "Someone needs to be watching the children in the pool at all times."