Children are at the greatest risk of drowning in Western Australia (WA). In 2015–16 there were 171 drowning incidents (including fatal and non-fatal) recorded amongst children aged 0–14 years in WA. The susceptibility of this group to drownings is a result of numerous factors including poor swimming skills and coordination, aquatic inexperience, absent supervision and a lack of barriers preventing exposure to water. Whilst, the use of pool toys can facilitate greater enjoyment in the water, improper use can lead to injury and death.
This research responded to the growing concern relating to popular Monofin and Mermaid Tail products. This study aimed to review the safety of these products through assessing swimming skills (based on most recent swimming stage completed) both with and without the products. In total, 25 children aged 2–12 years participated in the study. Safety perceptions of 16 parents and nine swimming instructors were also investigated through structured interviews.
Overall, children experienced an average decrease of 70% in swimming ability while using mermaid fin products and 60% decrease while wearing mermaid tail products. Younger children experienced greater difficulty than those in older age groups for both products. Both parents and swim instructors observed a decline in children’s swimming ability. However, despite this, parents reported that they would still allow their child to wear the product again.
The research recommends minimum age and actual swimming ability requirements (not those perceived by the child and/or parent) for use should be promoted to improve safety. However, use of the products should only be in controlled aquatic environments such as home swimming pools and with close adult supervision regardless of age or swimming ability. It also recommends that further policies should be considered within aquatic centres regarding the use of these products to further prevent injury and the risk of unintentional drownings.
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