The wearing of goggles in swimming pools is commonplace and indeed goggles are often worn by children in swimming lessons from a very young age.

However, it may surprise many parents to learn that the decision to have their child wear goggles is one that may potentially endanger their child’s life!

Why Google are used

Goggles are typically used to increase a child’s comfort, relaxation and orientation in the aquatic environment. Goggles encourage the child to submerge and allow them to open their eyes and ascertain their position under water clearly.

Goggles are also an aid for preventing pool water and pool chemicals from irritating sensitive eyes. However, perhaps we should consider that 85% of drowning fatalities involving children under 4 occur as a result of the child finding their way to the pool area and accidentally falling into the water (60% of these in swimming pools).

It may be reasonable to assume that these children were neither dressed nor prepared (were not wearing goggles) for their misadventure in the water.

This begs the question– how valuable are goggles?

Are children who wear goggles more likely to drown than those children with lesser reliance on such eyewear? Goggle-wearing children need to learn to swim without wearing goggles.

Goggles serve as a swimming aid, and like all aids (including arm bands and kickboards), they should not play a permanent role in your child’s aquatic development.

Children should be encouraged to participate in all water activities without wearing goggles. Parents and swim teachers are responsible for ensuring that swimmers do not become reliant on goggles.

Not withstanding the need for the use of goggles where safety issues (including potential head clashes between swimmers who cannot see clearly or an irritative reaction to the pool water chemicals) must be considered, if your child is comfortable in the water without goggles and has no interest in using them, then goggles are not a requirement of any swim class or swimming pool activity.

What to do if your child likes Googles

If you child is the “goggle-wearing type”, be sure to provide opportunities for the child to swim with and without goggles. Swimming without goggles will allow the child to experience the blurriness of the underwater environment and the physical sensation of opening their eyes underwater which in turn will aid the child in learning to orientate themselves in this environment.

In early swim lessons we recommend that the child learn to be comfortable in the water without wearing goggles. As a child becomes a more avid and enthusiastic swimmer, or as the child learns water skills of greater complexity, the option of wearing goggles can be helpful in allowing the swimmer to see the movement of their body parts clearly.

That being said, to ensure the child has the opportunity to experience the sensation of being in the water without being able to see clearly and, in turn, that they learn to orientate themselves in water despite an inability to see clearly, it is vital that children be provided with the opportunity to swim without wearing goggles. This brings us back to the original question, how valuable are goggles?

With a child who only ever wears goggles in the water there lies an inherent risk that the child will feel they are unable to swim without them – water in the eyes may cause the child to panic. Such a fear can potentially increase the risk of the child drowning since there is a greater likelihood that the child will panic and be unable to think rationally should they fall into water without their goggles on. Parents should consider carefully whether or not their child needs to wear goggles in the various swimming situations they encounter.

Goggles should be seen as a useful swimming tool designed to protect the eyes of the swimmer and to allow the swimmer to see clearly underwater. However, and although it will surprise many, an over-reliance on wearing goggles and a failure to restrict a child’s wearing of goggles can magnify the risk of childhood drowning.