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German lifeguards warn that child drownings linked to parents’ smartphone ‘fixation’

German lifeguards warn that child drownings linked to parents’ smartphone ‘fixation’
September 7, 2018

Lifeguards in Germany have issued a warning that a growing number of child drownings in the country during the recent northern hemisphere summer are linked to their parents’ obsession with mobile phones.

More than 300 people have drowned in Germany this year, with hardly a day passing during the current heatwave when a swimmer has not died.

The German Lifeguard Association (DLRG) - the biggest organisation of its kind in Europe, providing 40,000 volunteer lifeguards at German beaches, lakes and the coast - has made a direct connection between children getting into difficulty in the water and parents being too busy on their mobile phones to notice.

Echoing fears among lifesaving bodies in Australia and New Zealand, DLRG’s spokesman Achim Wiese stated “too few parents and grandparents are heeding the advice: when your children and grandchildren are in the water, put your smartphone away.”

Peter Harzheim of the German Federation of Swimming Pool Supervisors (GFSPS) added “we’re experiencing on a daily basis that people treat swimming pools like a kindergarten and simply don’t pay attention.

“In the past, parents and grandparents spent more time with their children in the swimming pool.

“But increasing numbers of parents are fixated by their smartphones and are not looking left or right, let alone paying attention to their children.

“It’s sad that parents behave so neglectfully these days.”

Both the DLRG and the GFSPS also blamed the German school system for not making swimming lessons obligatory from an early age.

In addition, budget cuts have also led to swimming pools shortening their opening times while an increase in the number of families in which both parents worked full-time has led to difficulties for families to fit in swimming lessons, the DLRG has warned.

Among the drownings have been more than 20 children under the age of 15, and 40 young women and men between the ages of 16 and 25.

The German Swimming Association (DSV) has warned that with a lack of state support for swimming lessons, and schools’ lack of access to pools, Germany is in danger of turning into a land of non-swimmers.

The DSV’s Axel Dietrich told German media “many people lack the right knowledge about how to behave in the water.

“So people have drowned this summer in particular because they knew nothing about the water temperatures and the currents in the particular water they’ve been in, or because they suddenly got a cramp in their leg in the middle of a lake and had no idea what to do.”

Main image: LIWA Aquatics' Watch Around Water campaign reminds parents to focus on the safety of their children by remaining alert and not being distracted by smartphones and social interaction.

Related Articles

25th April 2018 - Former Swimming Australia coach arrested at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre

19th April 2018 - Royal Life Saving study finds lack of supervision behind child drownings at public facilities

17th January 2018 - New signage aims to reduce drowning incidents in New Zealand public pools

17th December 2017 - Complacency surrounding Asian drowning epidemic also impacts Australia

16th December 2016 - Watch Around Water gets season launch

16th September 2015 - Drownings highlight need to take more care around water

24th December 2014 - UN report shows drowning claims over 40 people every hour in ‘needless loss of life’

3rd September 2013 - Smartphone app an important new tool for beach safety

30th July 2013 - Aims to link Watch Around Water program with other anti-drowning initiatives

30th August 2011 - FSB presents ‘the future for the world of recreation’


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