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Parents warned over 'deadly' pool habit claiming kids' lives

With summer just around the corner, distracted parents are being warned to get off social media and pay attention to their kids while they are around water.

In the last 17 years, there have been 496 drowning deaths of children aged between 0 and 4 across Australia, with many occurring despite parents being close by.

Most drowning deaths in children aged one took place in backyard pools (59 per cent). Accidental falls into the pool accounted for 88 per cent of these deaths, and almost all of these deaths were due to a lack of adult supervision.

Justin Scarr, CEO at Royal Life Saving Australia, said parents need to understand toddlers are most vulnerable, and Facebook and Instagram can wait when they are tasked with caring for children near swimming pools or the ocean.

Pictured is a woman reclining by a pool using her phone.
Parents are being warned to stay off their phones while caring for children at the pool. Source: Getty, file.

“Distractions are dangerous – whether it is taking a phone call, browsing social media or ducking inside to grab something – we ask parents and carers to always keep watch,” he said.

“Drowning deaths in young children are wholly preventable.”

“We can’t emphasise enough how important active adult supervision is in preventing these deaths.”

One-year-old children are the most vulnerable age altogether, with 202 deaths since 2002.

Mr Scarr has warned parents and guardians to make sure they are up to date with the Keep Watch campaign to ensure children’s safety around water.

Vital steps to ensure children’s safety around water

The program has four key drowning prevention actions, calling on guardians to supervise, restrict access, have water awareness and knowledge of resuscitation.

According to Royal Life Saving Australia, supervision of children requires all of an adult’s attention.

A child stands by the side of a pool watching another boy swimming.
Children under five need constant supervision near water, Royal Life Saving Australia says. Source: Getty, file.

“Supervision is not an occasional glance while you are busy with other activities, but being in constant visual contact with your child,” the campaign says.

Earlier this month a Sydney mum was refused entry to a pool with her three young children as the facility has a one child per adult policy.

While the mother was furious with the rule’s application, Mr Scarr defended the decision and insisted swimming pools aren’t daycare centres.

He noted that young children will need carers to be within arm’s reach at all times when in or close to the water.

How to make your swimming pool safe

For backyard pools, Royal Life Saving Australia says it is vital to ensure pool gates are closed, the fences are regularly checked for faults or damage, and no climbing obstacles are placed near fences. It is also important to be aware of ponds and other smaller bodies of water such as fountains.

Water awareness comes in the shape of educating children over the dangers of water, starting with the introduction of very basic skills for children up to 36 months such as getting their face wet and moving in water.

Royal Life Saving Australia also notes it is vital that adults caring for children know how to perform CPR.

“Having the skills to respond in an emergency situation can mean the difference between life and death,” they say.

Royal Life Saving Australia offers a number of CPR related courses and instructions to install at home available to the public.

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