In the last few decades, the face of scuba diving has changed. Many in the past believed it to be a high-risk sport. That concept also meant it was not suitable for children. Equipment improvements and a better understanding of risk have opened up scuba diving to most individuals subject to risk. Training has changed as well. The month-long programs have been replaced with self-study and a two or three day training period. Over time, the entry age level has dropped so now even 10-year-olds are able to scuba dive. I am all for getting new divers qualified but are 10 year old’s able to understand the risk and react properly? There may be other considerations as well.
Points of interest
In addition to the inherent risks associated with scuba diving, there are two important additional concerns people have when it comes to kids scuba diving, which relate to mental and physical health.
Mental maturity – Is the child mature enough to deal with any problems that can occur under the water? Will they stay calm under pressure?
Medical issues – it is unclear the effects of nitrogen on smaller/developing bodies and children may be more susceptible to ear issues/have problems with equalisation.
Pre-Requisites for Kids who want to scuba dive
Even if kids meet the minimum age requirements, there are other factors to consider if a child is ready to dive. They should only consider diving if they:
- Really want to dive! This is a no brainer, if your child has no desire to dive, then they shouldn’t!
- Are comfortable in the water – this means being able to swim unassisted and be comfortable swimming in open water.
- Are medically fit – they need to go for the standard scuba diving medical and if they have any common childhood issues such as asthma or ear problems, the doctor needs to perform additional tests and assess the risk of diving/determine suitability.
- Are able to remain calm in stressful situations – diving can be stressful, so the ability to stay calm and just breathe is super important.
- Can read – there is a theoretical component to diving, so kids need to be able to read and retain that information.
- Are a rational thinker. They need to remember what they have learnt and apply it, especially in a problematic situation.
Maturity, physicality & desire
You will find children are more eager to learn than their parents are. In some cases, they are better able to comprehend the content and have better study habits than many adults. Children have a natural curiosity about the ocean and its marine life, and during school, even as young as 10, they study many of the principles that apply to diving, such as mathematical problem-solving, and the laws that apply to buoyancy and gravity. Learning to dive affords them the chance to apply some of these principles in real-world situations while they’re underwater.
A Child is Not a Small Adult
If you take the Early Childhood Development course. The one phrase that seems to show up in every chapter of every textbook and in every lecture was “A child is not a small adult”. As a child grows they “mature” to adulthood. There are many physical and mental changes that happen, and many of these changes are happening in the 10 to 14-year-old age range. The 10-year old that gets frustrated during a football game, sits down on the field, pouts and refuses to move or play, may cause the game to halt but nothing serious has happened. Can we say the same thing if they sit on the bottom at 5 meters and refuses to do anything?
- Preserve body warmth in water temps 68°F and above. Protect your children from cuts, abrasions, jellyfish and harmful UV.
What about the adult dive buddy of a junior diver? Granted you are diving in shallow waters, however, is the adult able to be a solo diver? If something went wrong with the adult diver, can we really expect that the junior diver is able to assist? Can the adult diver take care of their own safety in an emergency and still look after the child?
I believe there are many issues that a parent needs to look at that are gloss over by all of the advertising and promotions. I do think that getting children who want to dive certified is a great plan, but not something to be taken lightly.
Why do we want 12-year-olds to dive? Diving with your children can be a wonderful bonding experience, and one many parents look forward to, particularly after many years of being “grounded.” But we shouldn’t be hasty. No matter how cool diving is, kids have a tendency to avoid those things forced on them by their parents. Besides, the restrictions set by most agencies on what they (and you) can do may make diving with children less exciting than you envisioned. I say, let the interest grow naturally.
I think we can all agree that when it comes to a child’s underwater experience, we want them to have both an enjoyable and safe underwater experience. For some, that may be scuba diving, and for others it might be better to start with snorkeling and enjoy that experience for a few years. The decision on what is right for your child, is something that needs to be discussed between you and your child, in consultation with a qualified instructor.
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