Personal Flotation Devices: Are They Helpful or Hurtful When Learning How to Swim?
Many parents rely on personal flotation devices to ensure their children’s safety in the water. However, a question that often comes up is whether or not personal flotation devices (PFDs) are doing more harm than good. Truthfully, when it comes to learning how to swim, PFDs may give parents a false sense of security and interfere with a child’s ability to properly learn how to swim.
They Can Provide a False Sense of Security
Personal flotation devices such as life vests and life jackets are helpful because they are designed to keep people safe during emergencies when participating in activities such as boating, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. PFDs such as float belts and water wings are designed to provide added protection when playing or recreating in the water. Unfortunately, many parents think that PFDs are enough to keep their child safe and will use these devices as the only method to prevent drowning. This is when PFDs do more harm than good. Personal flotation devices should never substitute for parental guidance and supervision, or a child’s ability to swim. It only takes a split second for drowning to occur. PFDs can pop and slip off with one jump in the pool and without a guardian or parent present, there is potential for drowning to occur.
They Can Interfere with a Child’s Ability to Learn How to Swim
While PFDs are a great water safety practice, it interferes with actual swimming skills. Learning how to swim while wearing them is not effective and may hinder a child from learning basic skills. Float belts may keep a child above the surface of the water, but these devices can also tip a child backward or forward. If a child is not being supervised and cannot lift their head up, they can drown. Water wings can hinder a child from using the correct swimming stroke or motion to move through the water. When a child lifts their arms above their head, water wings can cause a child’s head to sink down below the water’s surface causing panic and drowning if not watched.
Personal flotation devices are great to for their intended purpose as a water safety measure. However, nothing can take the place of learning how to swim or adult supervision at all times when in the water. PFDs come and go, but learning how to swim is a lifetime skill that can save a child’s life, and it’s never too early to learn.
Our Survival Swim program teaches infants as young as 6 months how to roll on their back, float, and take a breath – skills that can prevent drowning in the event they fall into the water.
Classes at Texas Swim Academy are very small and instructors are highly trained with safety as our number one priority. As swim season continues, please take the opportunity to review the safety recommendations and resources found on PoolSafely.gov. The Pool Safely Pledge and Water Safety Activity Sheet are great activities for kids to raise awareness and remind them to never swim alone.