Lifeguards in Germany have called on parents to put their smartphones down, after 300 people drowned in the country so far this year.
The German Lifeguard Association has claimed a direct connection between phone use and children getting into difficulty. “In the past, parents and grandparents spent more time with their children in the swimming pool,” a spokesperson told German media. “But increasing numbers of parents are fixated by their smartphones and are not looking left or right, let alone paying attention to their children.”
The Royal Lifesaving Society told HuffPost UK it held no data that suggested there had been a similar rise related to smartphone use in the UK, but warned that parents must keep vigilant at all times and stay within arms length of children when they are playing in the water.
Head of volunteering Lee Heard told HuffPost UK: “It’s a bold claim and it’s something we would share concerns around - our advice would be that parents make sure they give children their undivided attention.”
He said parents should do so in the home as well as in swimming pools and in outdoor water. “If parents are bathing children, never leave the bathroom and don’t have anything in the bathroom that takes away your attention,” he said. “I know how easy it is, I have a six month old baby myself and I know how easy it is just to turn your back for a second but it literally can take just a couple of seconds for a baby to go under the water.”
With more families visiting the seaside due to the hot weather, parents should also be extra vigilant when in the sea or in lakes and should only swim in places where there is lifeguard supervision and also remember that the sea may be far colder than anticipated, which could lead to shock.
“If children are in the water they should always be within arms length of someone who is supervising them,” he added.
Heard told HuffPost UK that three in five people (60%) who end up in a fatal water accident did not intend to be in the water - suggesting they may have slipped for example or been swept in with a wave. For that reason parents should stay with children even when they are playing at the water’s edge.