Summer Concerns for the Everyday Parent
I long for the days of summer. Literally. The thought of not having to get three kids up and out in the morning is more liberating than I can articulate. Not to mention getting a break from school nights filled with afterschool activities, homework and early bedtimes. I relish the break from it all and know my children do also. That said, with a relaxed schedule cannot come a relaxed outlook about safety. Summer offers unique security concerns that we hope all parents stop to consider and work to combat. Here are my top 5 and what you can do about them:
Pool Safety and Swimming
If your kids are like mine, they love to swim. We love it too. That said, we have gone over strict rules when it comes to pool safety – namely, no one can be outside and in the pool without an adult present; additionally, we tell our children they are not allowed to play “near” the pool when we are not there. Once in the water? No rough housing, no crazy jumps and no “pretend” drowning (yes, it’s a thing and kids love to play the “help me” game!). You may think our rules are strict, but they are given with great reason.
This week, a viral video of a toddler climbing up pool ladder served as a reminder to all parents about pool safety. According to the CDC, there were approximately 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings in the US between 2005-2014. This averages about 10 deaths per day. About 1 in 5 of those deaths were children 14 and younger. For every 1 death, 5 other children are sent to the ER for nonfatal submersion injuries. Last year in Texas, there were at least 80 fatal drownings. So far this year, there have been 19 fatal drownings in the Lone Star State.
Beyond the swimming pool, I encourage you to think about risks before hitting the water parks. Here are the most common injuries to look out for:
- Trips and slips! Not only are fractures possible but where you are near water, a fall into a pool can also lead to drowning.
- Excited teens often take dangerous risks! Teens like speed and adventure but combining that with water is not always a good idea. Some experts associate the fact that of the youth deaths associated with drowning, the majority are boys because rough housing was involved at some point. While water parks have strict rules against horseplay, we need to have these talks with our teens before leaving the house.
- Small children can drown in as little as two inches of water and it can happen quickly. Beyond their lack of stability while standing on their own, they can be knocked over easily by others. Add a kiddie pool or water park feature and it’s a recipe for disaster. Parents must be watching their toddlers with persistent vigilance and keeping them in the toddler areas of the park always.
It’s horrible but Texas ranks number 1 for child hot car deaths in the USA. From 1990 to 2017, there were 120 child vehicular heatstroke fatalities in Texas involving children ages 14 and under. How do we stop this?
- Never leave a child unattended inside a car, even for a moment.
- Parents, talk to your child about the dangers of being in a car during the summer months – remind them, it’s not a place to play hide-and-seek and it’s never safe to get into a car by yourself and close the doors.
- For parents on the go with a change in schedule - leave your purse or phone or wallet – or even a shoe! - next to the child in the backseat. This will force you to look back there before you exit the car.
Online Gaming Breaches
Keep in mind that hackers are hoping your children will put out their personal information as they download video games. Just this past week, news broke that 800,000 players of the popular game Fortnite Battle Royale had their email accounts and other information compromised by hackers.
Parents, talk kids through the steps required to sign up for a video game and explain what information is okay to share and what isn’t. Once you’ve entered your name, address, credit card and email, you truly are in a vulnerable position. Change your passwords often, don’t list personal information like your mother’s maiden name, use one credit card for gaming or any online purchases, don’t click on suspicious sites or wait to be a victim of fraud to care about being safe online.
Outdoor Activities and Accidents
Even with the heat, kids want to be outside, which is great! Let’s keep in mind the following safety concerns:
- Playgrounds - emergency departments see more than 20,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related traumatic brain injury each year. Parents, let your kids play and have fun but be sure to watch them and go over safety rules before they play. Inspect equipment before they jump on – both for loose parts or sharp edges (and in my case, for bugs…!).
- Biking - Bicyclists must take extra precautions when they ride. Whether on a road, sidewalk or off the beaten path, injuries can happen anywhere. In 2015, bicycles were associated with more injuries than skateboards, trampolines, swimming pools and playground equipment combined! According to Injury Facts 2017, 488,123 people were treated in emergency rooms in 2015 after being injured riding a bicycle. Sadly, about 1,100 deaths resulted from cyclists colliding with motor vehicles.
- Walking – It’s one of my favorite things to do and my kids love it also. That said, “distracted walking” is a serious issue! Whether crossing a street or navigating a bumpy sidewalk, if you are not paying attention, you’re at risk for personal injury or something far worse. Cell phones down and heads up! According to a Governors Highway Safety Association report, there were nearly 6,000 pedestrian fatalities in 2017. Let’s pay attention, friends!
Ask me what my kids are doing this summer and I’ll tell you they’re playing, going to water parks, swimming, riding bikes and having a wonderful time – but they have been tasked with doing it all safely. We can’t shield them from all pain and injury but we can certainly take conscious steps to try. I hope you’ll read this and have important, age-appropriate conversations with the kids in your home and in your life and encourage your friends and colleagues to do the same. In the meantime, I’m wishing you and yours a safe, happy and healthy summer!