Red Cross found 67% (two-thirds) of those surveyed believe putting inflatable arm bands or water wings on children is enough to keep them safe when an adult is not nearby. Red Cross warns against using water wings, and so does Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, many of the water wings come with the warning sign – ‘this is not a life-saving device’. The sign means what it says, literally.
Water wings give children a false sense of security and make them over confident even if they do not know how to swim or tread water. Remember, these inflatables are not fault-tolerant. They may leak or deflate with no warning. They can even easily slip off the arms of the kids. Ever thought of the possibility that a child can voluntarily take it off or puncture it while in water?
Interestingly (and rightfully so), some towns in New Hampshire are taking steps to not to allow water wings on their beaches. Simple reason – inflatable ‘floaties’ provide a false sense of security.
Water wings keep the body vertical, a posture that a child may get used to. A habit that may be hard to break out of – it can make a child resist to use correct horizontal posture and motion, and hence impede the learning process. The goal should be to teach the child to swim at the earliest and not to get them used to a ‘crutch’.
The safer floatation devices are the ones that are not inflatable. The children and inexperienced swimmers should rather wear US Coast Guard approved life jackets. Even with the life jackets, the children should be under constant adult supervision. Even better is to follow ‘touch supervision’ method, stay within an arm’s length of the child at all times.
Every summer the stores stockpile supplies with all kinds of water wings and other inflatable ‘floaties’. And as expected, parents line up at the cashier registers to pay for what they think are safety devices. I hope my message reaches, directly or through my readers, to those who still think water wings are safety devices.
Learn to swim right!
– Meghna Sil