Queensland swimming instructor Cat Owens knows some parents aren’t going to like what she has to say. But she’s saying it anyway.
“You need to put your phone down and watch your child’s swimming lesson.”
Owens has been a swimming instructor for the past decade, and she’s used to looking up from the pool and seeing an entire row of parents on their phones.
“It makes the kids sad,” Owens tells Mamamia. “They’re trying to make their parents proud of them.”
In a blog she’s written about it, Owens talks about a recent experience reported by another swimming instructor.
“One of our teachers came out of his shift and told us that he almost cried during a lesson, because a little boy in his class swam the length of the pool, looked up at his dad for praise, and said, ‘Why won’t Daddy watch me? He’s always playing on his phone.’
“This particular boy had put in so much effort. He had listened well to the teacher, he had tried his hardest, and he just wanted his dad to be proud of him.
“Sadly, we see it all day, every day.”
Owens explains that the issue recently came up at a meeting of swimming school coordinators. They tossed around suggestions of how to get parents to put down their phones: banning them, putting up posters telling parents to watch, or even offering free Wi-Fi and making the password “please get off your phone and watch me swim”. Apparently that last suggestion has already been used by at least one swim school.
Owens knows that sometimes parents are using their phones for work purposes.
“Absolutely I understand you have to send emails. I do the same.”
But she says that’s not always the case.
“I can see that a lot of the time parents are on Facebook. And I can see when they’re shopping for T-shirts, and I can see when they’re playing games.”
She believes that most parents just aren’t aware of how much their kids want them to watch.
“I don’t think they realise that the kids look up at them that often. Sometimes the parents don’t even realise that the kids are calling out to them.”
Owens agrees that simply bringing kids to swimming lessons is “the most important thing, by far”.
“It’s a survival skill and it definitely needs to happen.”
But she would love to see a change in the culture at the pool, so that parents put down their phones and see what their kids are learning and the progress they’re making.
“Please just try it. You will be amazed how much you get out of it, and I’ll bet you your child will work their absolute hardest.”
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