Survey Shows Parents Are Worried Kids are Diving into Technology Instead of Pools

Citing the health benefits of swimming, parents want kids to power off and dive in

WASHINGTON DC — With summer right around the corner, a new survey finds an overwhelming majority of parents are concerned that electronic devices are interfering with traditional family activities, including swimming, and see potential negative health and social consequences as a result.

The new Mason-Dixon survey, conducted on behalf of the Water Quality and Health Council, found that 86 percent of parents said electronics, such as video games, smart phones and tablets, interfere with traditional family activities.  And 93 percent of parents are concerned that children are suffering negative health consequences from spending too much time on electronic devices instead of physical activities like swimming.  

Given a range of choices, more parents chose “the smell of chlorine” as their strongest sensory summertime swimming pool memory but today’s children could be forming more battery-powered summertime memories:  94 percent of parents are worried their children spend too much time on electronic devices.

“The sights, sounds and smells of summer are real, not virtual,” said Chris Wiant, Ph.D., Chair of the Water Quality and Health Council. “For children, the distractions of electronic devices are proving to be tough competition for more physical activities like swimming.  But it’s clear from this survey that parents want their children to power off and dive in.”

An overwhelming majority (84 percent) said they would like to see their children spend more time swimming this summer.  That goal is within reach for many, since 88 percent of parents report that they have access to a pool.

Children Missing Out On Health and Social Benefits of Swimming?

When asked to prioritize the health benefits of swimming, parents credited swimming with improving children’s cardiovascular health followed by increasing strength and flexibility, developing motor skills, managing weight and managing asthma symptoms.  In addition to the 93 percent of parents who are concerned about the health implications of spending too much time on electronic devices instead of swimming, 86 percent are concerned about the impact on children’s social skills. 

“Parents are clearly worried that children may be missing out on the health benefits of swimming,” said Thomas M. Lachocki, Ph.D., CEO with the National Swimming Pool Foundation. “Water activities are unique since they are great for children, parents and grandparents. What a great way for generations to connect! It is certainly healthier than having the kids fiddling with controllers and adults fidgeting in recliners.”

Knowledge Gaps on Child Health, Asthma and Swimming Pools

One in four respondents did not know that swimming in a well-maintained pool with a proper chlorine level and pH is a healthy activity for children with asthma. More than half of respondents did not know that a well-maintained pool can reduce the risk of swimming-related ear infections and 23 percent did not know that a well-maintained pool can help reduce the risk of developing diarrhea from waterborne germs.

“Studies have shown that children with asthma may have fewer symptoms when swimming regularly compared with other asthmatic children,” said Michele Hlavsa, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Swimming Program.

Tips for Keeping Kids Active This Summer

  • Host a family meeting to discuss the appropriate balance of hours on electronic devices and hours spent exercising outside.
  • Discuss the health benefits of being physically active and work with your children to set goals for themselves.
  • Build family time into the schedule that involves face-to-face social interaction without electronic devices.
  • Locate the municipal or public pool in your area.
  • Make sure children learn to swim, and are supervised and swimming in a properly maintained pool.

To learn more about the Water Quality and Health Council and its efforts to raise awareness of the importance of disinfection for public health, please visit www.waterandhealth.org.  As part of its summer healthy pools awareness initiative, the Council is making free pool test kits available to the public.  To order a kit, go to www.healthypools.org

The survey was conducted of 1,000 adults with at least one child between the ages of 5 and 14 nationwide.  The survey was conducted by telephone, including both landlines and cell phones, from May 2 through May 9, 2013 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc.  The margin for error on the national results is +/-3.2%.

Technology vs. Fun in the Sun

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