Sign The Parent Letter
What language does the NDPA believe is dangerous and misleading?
Fun and colorful marketing language helps sell products. However, when it comes to flotation devices, parents need clear and accurate messaging about the product that are buying and its intended use. Many children’s flotation devices available from major retailers make substantial claims about their devices performance and outcomes that we consider misleading, especially regarding learning water safety and swim skills. Many of these products are not approved by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). Here are 10 examples of language being used to market flotation devices from various retailer websites:
- “Parents enjoy free time while kids are safe in water”
- “Helping beginning swimmers learn how to swim”
- “Learn to swim easily”
- “…kids feel happy and stay safe, while parents can finally enjoy peace of mind”
- “Confidence helper – swimming is a great sport helping kids build independence and confidence.”
- “…helps kids fast learn swimming”
- “Easiest way for learning to swim. Life vest jacket with attached arm bands for teaching kids to safely learn to swim!”
- “Learn-to-swim aid for beginners in the water, swimming pool for children. More freedom and confidence to swim and play.”
- “Parents can relax with confidence while their kids are in the pool.”
- “Help your child to learn to swim faster and easier”
What is the purpose of this campaign?
USCG tested and approved flotation devices serve a critical role in water safety and drowning prevention (especially in open water environments). US Coast Guard Approved devices are designed and tested for buoyancy and are highly recommended for use in certain situations such as boating, open water activities, and when weak or non-swimmer are around water. They are designed to protect people if they end up in the water when they were not expecting it. The messaging and marketing used to sell these devices to the public must provide accurate water safety information. As part of this effort, we are asking retailers to closely examine how these devices are marketed and messaged on their website.
Does the NDPA believe that lifejackets are a layer of protection?
Yes. USCG tested and approved flotation devices can be an important and effective a layer of protection, especially in all open water environments. However, overreliance on one layer of protection can be dangerous. Other layers, such as barriers/fences, alarms, supervision, and gaining water competency are critical components to any water safety plan. The messaging and marketing around all layers of protection, including flotation devices, must reflect accurate safety information for consumers. Misleading messaging can confuse consumers and lead to a dangerous situation by creating a false sense of security and confidence.
Can a child learn to swim on their own by using a flotation device?
No. While some programs utilize flotation devices as a tool in formal lessons, a child will not learn to swim or gain water competency by only using a flotation device.
Are all flotation devices tested and approved?
No. Not all devices sold by retailers are tested and approved flotation devices. Devices that are not tested and approved should not be considered a safe layer of protection or be part of a family’s water safety plan. Flotation devices tested and approved by the US Coast Guard based on their buoyancy and ability to protect someone while boating. USCG approval has nothing to do with use in swimming pools, and certainly not in relation to learning to swim. Many of the devices available from major online retailers for young children do not include information on testing and approval, meaning they have not been USCG tested and approved. Clear and accurate messaging is critical to ensure consumers use devices appropriately and do not overly rely on only one layer of protection.
When do you use flotation devices?
USCG tested and approved flotation devices (lifejackets) should be worn by everyone, regardless of age, in open water and boating situations. Weak and non-swimmers should also wear tested and approved devices when they are around water and other layers of protection, such as supervision and barriers, are not in place.
What action is the NDPA asking from major retailers?
We are asking major retailers to closely examine the marketing and messaging being used around children’s flotation devices to ensure parents are not receiving inaccurate or misleading water safety information. Specifically, to eliminate messaging that any flotation device, USCG approved or not, is not a learn to swim product. We are also asking that major retailers include accurate water safety information on all water products they may sell. The NDPA and the water safety community is here to help.
How can I help?
You can help by signing our letter and asking retailers to closely examine how puddle jumpers and other flotation devices are marketed on their websites.