Parents urged to pay more attention to swimming kids

Kiwi parents are being reminded to put down their cellphones and pay full attention to children playing near water, as part of new supervision guidelines.   

Last year 26 children under five were hospitalised for near drowning incidents - a figure higher than 2015.

Two-year-old Vihaan loves to swim. His mother introduced him to the pool when he was just five-months-old, so he can grow up confident around water.

"I'm really scared of water, so after coming to New Zealand I learned swimming. So I really wanted him to learn right from the beginning since he was a baby," says his mother, Shanti Potluri.

Vihaan's one of 150,000 children under three expected to hit the water this summer - and to help keep them safe, Plunket's issuing new guidelines for the adults who will be watching them.

While it might sound like common sense, a New Zealand study found almost a quarter of parents weren't actively supervising their children near water, with many instead sunbathing or glued to their cellphones.

"I think it's really important for us as parents to always look after the kids, put the books or the phones away and just watch what they're doing," says Ms Potluri.

Glen Innes Pool head swim teacher Kat Bodenstein says kids must always be within arms' reach, and for those under five, it's essential an adult's in the water with them.

"Drowning can happen so quickly and any accidents can happen in a split second. You need to be in the water so that you're there ready to grab them if anything goes wrong," she says.

Last year there were 108 drowning deaths across the country - 81 of which were preventable. Three of those were children aged under five.

Already this summer there's been one preventable drowning of a child aged under five, so by giving parents a tool kit for water supervision Plunket hopes to prevent any further tragedies.

"[It's] very easy to get distracted no matter what you're doing with your children," says Plunket child safety national advisor Sue Campbell.

"Out and about have one person responsible for looking after those children, if you're at home and they're in or around water make sure you're with them."

And the best way to avoid distractions is to get in the water yourself.