Surprise drill in kid's swimming lesson divides opinion on TikTok

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Learning to swim is an essential skill, but one Perth mum has divided the internet after posting a video of her daughter during a Survival Swim school swimming lesson.

The mum uploaded a video to TikTok showing the small child floating on her back in a pool with a swimming instructor who whips out a small towel and puts it over the child's head.

Although she struggles for a brief moment, she manages to pull the towel off her face and keep her head above water with no interference from the instructor.

"Survival swim school. Best decision we’ve ever made!" she captioned the video which has been viewed a million times.

Images from a TikTok video showing a Perth child swimming with a towel over her head in the water and then without it.
The technique, which is used in some survival swimming schools, divided opinions online. Source: TikTok

Users divided over swim school technique

Some TikTokers were appalled by the video, many arguing it looks traumatic for the child.

"Why don't parents just ensure their child is always supervised around water?" one person said.

Others argued it was the best way to teach kids how to swim.

"My son is seven and did the same survival swimming course at 15 months... and you can’t keep him out of the pool, [he] loves the water," one user wrote.

"Good job mama!!" another wrote. "Especially when you live near water this is a must! Hard to watch but necessary."

The mum responded to the criticism, thanking some TikTokers “for the laughs”.

“Maybe we breed 'em different here in Perth WA. But my daughter is not traumatised by this,” she wrote in a comment.

“Mark my words, you will be seeing her standing on the podium winning gold for swimming representing Australia at the Olympics.”

The Survival Swim method for young children

Survival Swim schools aim to teach children life-saving skills in the water to help prevent drowning.

"[We] teach babies and young children how to roll over and float as the first priority because that's obviously a way for them to survive," Stacy Gower – from Infant Aquatics, an organisation that teaches survival swimming – explained.

"They need to go from a point of not being able to breathe when they're submerged in the water to rolling onto the backs where they have access to oxygen."

Ms Gower says the technique seen in the video is more commonly seen in US swimming schools, but is also taught in some classes in Australia.

She said placing a towel over a child's head in the water is so they know what to do if they fall in the water and clothing ends up covering their face.

"Most children will instinctively just pull that piece of clothing, whatever it is over the face, and pull it off," she explained.

"[But] some children will lie there and not be able to breathe properly.

"So part of that is a skill is to teach them to pull that off their face so that they can breathe better."

20 per cent more drownings in 2021

The 2021 Royal Life Saving National Drowning report and Surf Life Saving National Coastal Safety Report said there were 294 drowning deaths in the past 12 months from September across Australia’s coastline, inland waterways and pools.

The figure was 20 per cent higher than last year.

Water safety experts urged people to not be complacent when around water.

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