What others think matters when keeping children safe around water

What others think matters

What others think matters when it comes to how parents look after their children around swimming pools.

This is one of the key findings of research published in the Journal of Safety Research. “We have a good understanding of the common risk factors implicated in child drownings in private swimming pools, such as lapses in, or complete absence of, adult supervision and non-compliance of safety barriers, but we have limited knowledge of the factors that may lead to these actions,” says study leader Associate Professor Kyra Hamilton from Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland (MHIQ).

This study showed that, while parents and carers are well aware that failing to supervise children or restrict their access to water could cause drowning, they may be more likely to follow safety advice if there was social pressure to do so.

The study suggests that helping parents to manage their schedules and plan for dedicated swimming time without any distractions, such as mobile phones, would help to increase child supervision and hence prevent drowning.

It also found that anticipating regret may help parents’ and carers’ to view child safety around private swimming pools as a habit rather than a deliberate intention. “This is because regret is a pervasive, powerful and unpleasant emotion that people wish to avoid,” says Associate Professor Hamilton. The study suggests, for example, that people sharing their personal stories and evoking anticipated emotional consequences could help to promote the adoption of, and adherence to, these pool safety behaviours.

Drowning research shows that almost all drowning deaths and incidents in young children are due to lapses in adult supervision, and that failures in pool barriers is another leading contributory factor in drowning.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, drowning is the number one cause of death in one-, two- and three-year-old children (ABS 2019). Children aged under five are most at risk of experiencing fatal and non-fatal drowning and the highest proportion of drowning incidents in this age group occur in private swimming pools.

This project was jointly funded by Royal Life Saving Society – Australia and Royal Life Saving Society – New South Wales.