Ditch the smartphone and keep constant watch over children in pools

At some points in time, apart from the child's instructor turning to focus on his other pupils, the lifeguard concerned was busy on his mobile phone.
At some points in time, apart from the child's instructor turning to focus on his other pupils, the lifeguard concerned was busy on his mobile phone. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

It was sad to read the state coroner's findings into the death of a six-year-old girl after a near-drowning incident during a swimming lesson at a pool (Swimming instructor, lifeguards rapped over death of girl, 6, April 4).

We wish to remind everyone of the need to constantly keep watch over children around water.

From the facts reported, it would appear that, at some points in time, apart from the child's instructor turning to focus on his other pupils, the lifeguard concerned was busy on his mobile phone. The child's mother, seated near the pool, was also noted at times to be checking her phone or speaking to people.

We wish to highlight that the German Lifeguard Association, the world's largest voluntary lifeguard organisation, issued a warning last year to say that there is a direct link between child drownings and smartphone usage by parents.

In Texas in 2015, a mother was charged after three of her children drowned at a swimming pool while she was distracted by her phone. In Israel, a female lifeguard who was talking on her cellphone during her shift in December 2015 while a six-year old girl was drowning was charged with causing wrongful death by negligence.

It seems that multitasking is an illusion as it is not possible for our brains to do two cognitively demanding things simultaneously. What actually happens is fast switching between the two tasks.

In fact, some researchers have found that this may even weaken our ability to perform single tasks as well.

Therefore, it is crucial for everyone to avoid using mobile devices and keep a constant and uninterrupted watch over children around swimming pools and other waters.

Richard Tan Ming Kirk

President

Singapore Life Saving Society

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2019, with the headline 'Ditch the smartphone and keep constant watch over children in pools'. Print Edition | Subscribe