For  National Water Safety Month, we want to help raise awareness of critical issues pertaining to children and water safety. One area of concern that persists is water safety for minority kids, who are less likely to have strong swimming skills and face an increased risk of drowning. Studies are now being conducted to find out why.

The study by USA Swimming is ongoing, with Phase I completed in 2008 and Phase II completed in 2010. However, a number of key findings have already been made public regarding swimming in minority and underrepresented youth populations:

  • 60-70% of Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino respondents reported low or absent swimming skills, almost double the rate of White respondents. Low income also plays a role in discouraging swimming skills, but race is more important.
  • Fear of injury in the water or drowning is a strong predictor for low or no swimming ability. These fears overshadow the role of income in predicting swimming skills.
  • Family and parental involvement or encouragement are crucial to developing positively a child’s swimming ability.
  • Black/African American respondents cited appearance issues (e.g. ruined hair) as a major reason for avoiding water, as well as fears regarding common pool water chemicals.
  • Swim facility proximity or availability is not considered a limiting factor, i.e. sociocultural factors are deemed far more important.

The evidence is undeniable that minority and disadvantaged children face cultural barriers to swimming and water survival instruction. What is equally undeniable is that these barriers can be overcome with greater focus and awareness. We need to teach parents and caregivers to set aside their fears and embrace baby swim classes as a crucial tool to keeping their children safe and reducing their risk of drowning. We also need to address older children directly and help them make better decisions in balancing water safety with appearance issues.

For complete study information, visit the  USA Swimming website. We hope you will join us on the blog during National Water Safety Month, where we will continue to focus on spring safety tips for children in the water.