Supervision

Girl holding hands with a woman beside a pool  

Drowning is the leading cause of preventable death in children under the age of 5 and a lack of supervision is the biggest contributor to drowning in this age group. You might think that this would never happen to you, but the fact is, life gets busy and is full of distractions, and it only takes a fleeting moment for an unsupervised child to access water and drown.

Q. What is supervision? 

A. Supervision is constant visual contact with your child. You should be within arms' reach and be in a position to respond quickly. It is not an occasional glance while you're doing other things, and it is not looking outside at your kids playing while you're inside.

Q. What is active supervision?

A. Active supervision means focusing all of your attention on your children all of the time, when they are in, on or around the water. You must be within arms' reach, interacting with your child and ready to enter the water in case of an emergency. 

Q. How can multi-tasking affect supervision?

A. Parents are busy and often try to do many things at once to save time. When you multi-task you can become distracted and not give your full attention to maintaining the safety of your children. Distractions like answering the phone, attending to another child, or ducking inside to grab something can have tragic consequences if a toddler is left unattended near water. If you must leave when your child is bathing or swimming, even if you will only be gone for a short time, always take your child with you or have another adult take over supervision. 

Q. Can older children watch young children? 

A. No. Older children should not be left to supervise younger siblings around water. Children can easily become distracted and not notice that something has gone wrong or they may think the toddler is 'playing' in the water and not call for help. Responsible adult supervision is always the best option. 

Q. What if there are multiple adults present?

A. A number of children have drowned when there were multiple adults present. If other people are around, it's easy to assume that 'someone' has an eye on the kids. In reality it can mean that no one is actively supervising. Get into the habit of clearly communicating with other adults - whether it is your partner, parents or friends - about who is responsible for watching children around water if you need to leave the area. 

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image of woman laying beside pool with young boy looking into the water

Supervision Checklist

  • Have you brought all the clothes, towels, gear, etc. so you do not need to stop watching you child in, or near water? 
  • Are you prepared to get wet? Active supervision often means getting in the water with the child.
  • Are you within arm’s reach of your child at all times?
  • Do you undertake other activities while your child is in, or near water? Remember that this reduces the attention you give the child.