“I Dare You”: Internet Challenges and Kids’ Water Safety

 I-dare-you-ice-bucket-challenge“I dare you. I double dare you.” Ever hear those words? Ever utter those words? They were certainly part of my childhood. Even if the words have changed, the idea certainly hasn’t. Taking risks, pushing the limits, is part of childhood. It’s actually an important part of childhood and developing skills. After all, who wants their strong, healthy 23-year old to still be holding your hand to walk or unable to navigate stairs by themselves because they were afraid to fall? The fine line in parenting is teaching our kids to take reasonable risks and expand their horizons and when to say ‘no way’ to the risk and the peer pressure.

The latest craze following the (dangerous) #ColdWaterChallenge is the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness for ALS. Although some in the water safety field are concerned about the safety, my common-sense-mom-meter tells me that as long as you don’t drop the bucket on your head and there is no electricity involved, I don’t see real danger. Certainly fewer cases of injury or death than you get with jumping into ice cold water, jumping into abandoned quarries, jumping off trestle bridges, tombstoning (jumping off a cliff into the water), slipping into a neighbor’s pool late at night, or other parental-terror-inducing dares that include water.

You need to help your child, and especially your teenagers, know when to draw the line. A good starting point is to say, “If the dare involves water, understand it has a higher chance of ending badly, with either paralysis, permanent brain damage, or death. Water doesn’t give you second chances.”

The next point is to teach your child to ask “why?” Why should I be the one jumping off the bridge? Why should I be the one to hold my breath the longest? Why should I jump off the rocks? Why should I climb the fence and swim in the pool? Tell them that only a coward does what other people tell them to do. The toughest you can ever be is to look a bully, or even a friend or sibling, in the eye and say “No.” Especially if accompanied by an uncompromising cold stare. Suggest they practice in the bathroom mirror, maybe give them an example, after all all parents have the ‘don’t even think it’ stare down pat.

Once you know the “why”, ask if the “why” is a good enough reason. Is it a fairly harmless way of showing solidarity? Does it hurt you or anyone else? Do you really want to do it?

For the ice bucket challenge, the ‘why’ is explained in this devastating video. My heart goes out to those who are suffering from, or caring for those who suffer from ALS. For myself, the “why” isn’t enough to do the challenge, just not me, but it’s enough to make me spread the word or donate time or money to raise awareness and direct research funding. Which brings me to the last point.

Teach your child that some actions and words speak louder than others. Don’t just dump a bucket on your head or wear the bracelet or the other symbols of support. Donate your time. Donate your money. Speak up. Write letters. Care. And don’t pressure your friends into making bad decisions. Because each action does make a difference.

About the Author

Global water safety for children is my passion and I can't wait to get up every day to work at it! I blog about water safety regularly at http://www.RebeccaWearRobinson.com, or you can follow me on Twitter at RebeccaSaveKids. Rebecca is a former member of the PedSafe Expert team


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