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Study delivers warning for beachgoers this summer

27 November 2008

Study delivers warning for beachgoers this summer

A quarter of New Zealand children are not adequately supervised at the beach, according to new research from The University of Auckland, WaterSafe Auckland and Surf Life Saving New Zealand

Dr Kevin Moran, who teaches Health and Physical Education at the Faculty of Education and is Chairman of WaterSafe Auckland (WAI), says his study of behaviours and attitudes of beachgoers has revealed some disturbing truths about how our kids are supervised near open water.

“Parents need to be aware of the need to get up off their beach towels, walk down to the water’s edge and be willing to get wet in order to properly supervise their children,” says Dr Moran. “If you are supervising children on your own, keep them grouped together. If in any doubt, keep your children out.”

Dr Moran questioned more than 700 parents and caregivers in charge of young children at 18 popular surf and flat-water beaches in the upper North Island during late summer 2007.

Of those interviewed, 75 percent provided adequate supervision.

“This means paying close and constant attention to the water safety of the children in their care, and being aware of the risks such as water depth, tides and weather conditions.

“Of those parents and caregivers who didn’t provide adequate supervision, one third lay on the beach sunbathing, and half talked to other people or chatted on their cell phones. Some had even left the beach,” Dr Moran says.

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In addition, the study found most supervision (74%) was by a single person irrespective of the number of children in the water, and one fifth of all parents/caregivers estimated they could not swim non-stop for 100m in open water.

Little is known about parental supervision on our beaches. Previous studies have tended to focus on the home, as this is the most common environment for children aged under-five to drown. However the risk of drowning in open water increases with age, and becomes the most common place for children to drown after the age of five.

Dr Moran is calling for parents to be more vigilant this summer, to adopt close and constant supervision even in calm conditions and to group children together if they are supervising on their own.

Kevin has spent 35 years as a surf lifeguard, teacher educator, and water safety researcher. He is currently co-chairing an international task force on open water drowning prevention that is due to present safety guidelines for world-wide publication based on recent research and expert opinion.

“There is a distinct lack of children’s knowledge around water safety,”said Dr Moran, who will be one of four keynote speakers from the education sector at WaterSafe Auckland’s ‘Turning the Tide’ Regional Drowning Prevention Forum on Friday 28 November at the Marine Rescue Centre in Mechanics Bay.

ENDS

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