One of the most wonderful aspects of living in the Pacific Northwest is enjoying our amazing summers. The temperature hovers around a comfortable 75 degrees, the humidity is low, and the days are long. With the warmer temperatures come the outdoor activities and Seattle is surrounded by water! Lake Washington, Lake Union, the Puget Sound, and on and on. Boats, both motor and paddled, are common and teens are often invited to partake in summer activities involving water.
Unfortunately, water fun is not always without incident; accidents occur. Nearly half of the drowning deaths in youth under age 20 occur in freshwater (lakes, creeks, rivers, ponds). Though children ages 0-4 years are the most likely to die of drowning, there is a second peak in drowning during adolescence. This peak is almost totally attributable to teen males. They are 10 times more likely to drown than teen females. The higher drowning rate can be explained mainly by higher risk taking, over confidence in swimming ability, greater exposure to aquatic environments, and higher use of alcohol. Even though males are more likely to drown, all teens should be encouraged to practice safety in the water!
With many drowning accidents, there is an adult present, however no single person can see everything all the time. Some simple ways to keep teens safer in the water are to ensure life jackets and appropriate floatation devices are used by everyone onboard boats and to make sure there is a designated driver of water crafts (similar to cars).
Talk with your teen about alcohol and substance use. Practice scenarios where they might be tempted to use or get on a boat with someone who has been using and how to say no. Discuss your expectations for their behavior and consequences for breaking the family rules well ahead of them going boating with friends.
Water activities are extremely fun and lead to great summer memories. Let’s follow the simple steps of teaching teens to avoid alcohol and substance use while boating and swimming and always using flotation devices to help keep them safe.