Outrage of the Week: Goggles Banned as Straps Could “Snap”

Readers — This story makes The Onion look like The Economist. But, in fact, it is straight from The Telegraph, in jolly old (off-its-rocker) England:

Children have been banned from wearing goggles during school swimming lessons for fears they could hurt themselves.

Pen-pushers have slapped the ban on the swimming aids amid “fears” a pair could “snap” onto a child’s face too hard, injuring them.

I stop here because I am at a loss for anything else to say, except…

No, I actually have nothing to say. I suppose rubber bands are next. — Lenore

All those people in dire peril!

58 Responses

  1. If they’d banned that where I’d swam as a kid then I’d just never have learned how to swim.
    Chlorine always really bothered my eyes and I have awful vision so I use perscription goggles to actually be able to see.

  2. Er?

    But chlorine in the water irritates the child’s eyes, and not being able to see properly makes collisions with other swimmers or the sides of the pool more likely.

    That has more injury potential than a goggle-snap (minor bruises only), surely?

  3. I agree with poster nr 1, talesofcrazypsychmajor.
    I have a real problem with chlorine too.
    The snap of a broken strap seems to be worth it if you can avoid drowning by teaching kids to swim.

  4. Why would you even want to raise a child who could not handle pain of any kind AT ALL?

    You are just setting them up for failure. Period.

    Argh.

  5. I definitely would not have been on a swim team without goggles. So then I would have been fatter, lazier, and would probably drown. Yes, this sounds like an intelligent decision. Ugh!

  6. hats. hats are dangerous as well and… socks… and… underwear… and… hair ties… and…

  7. What about the kids who wear glasses and need prescription goggles so they can see? What about all the chlorine getting into their eyes and causing irritation? What about the kids who now will refuse to open their eyes in the water and will run into other swimmers or the wall? What about those “potential injuries”? This is D-U-M-B.

  8. They discourage kids from using goggles in swim lessons here until they get in the later levels (so kids will swim without goggles) but they certainly don’t ban them. That’s stupid.

  9. Anybody ever collide with another swimmer? I have, and I can tell you it hurts more than getting “snapped” with goggles.

  10. Sigh.

  11. They better ban bras too.
    Those straps are always getting snapped.
    I must say it is nice to know thre is one country ut there that is as stupid as we are.

  12. Following this to it’s logical conclusion, the banning of swimming is next! Far more children are injured by the water than they are by the goggles. And you have to touch a child to teach them to swim..so that must be a “no-no” too..oh and all those children in swimwear is surely an open invitation for perverts! Coming to a pool near you: the water burqa!

  13. What I think is really funny is that when I was a kid we thought kids who wore goggles were wimps. Our mothers didn’t want to spend any money on something that would make us weak while we learned to swim, although I think they just didn’t want to spend money, period.

    anyway…

    Apparently, wearing goggles is such an extreme risk that we (the non-goggle wearers) were fooling ourselves. Goggle wearers are so much braver, knowing that they could get injured at any moment!

    As an aside, my own children refuse to swim without goggles. I tell myself it’s because the pool we use gets shocked so often it’s amazing we all have skin left. But a part of me still thinks my kids are wimpy all the same. Now that using goggles is more dangerous than it used to be, I’m going to insist they wear them any chance they get. Maybe to school, since they can’t bring anything remotely offensive and their school doesn’t have a pool. Oh wait, CPS might get called. Better not.

  14. amurrayrubin already said what I wanted to say, so I’ll just repeat it: “What about the kids who wear glasses and need prescription goggles so they can see? What about all the chlorine getting into their eyes and causing irritation? What about the kids who now will refuse to open their eyes in the water and will run into other swimmers or the wall? What about those “potential injuries”? This is D-U-M-B.”

  15. @Emmay–I am all for that…in the adult only pools! :)

    As to the actual issue, many children need the goggles and as someone else pointed out, and I’ll expand on, most childrens pools are highly chlorinated in order to counteract “leakage” from toddlers and preschoolers.

    This will irritate their eyes to the point where they may have blurred vision. Then, when they trip over the pool ladder and crack their skulls on the coping tiles, who are we to blame now?

    It is too bad that there are very few lakes or waterways left to swim safely in. We used to swim in the canals in back of our friends houses. Of course, we didn’t know that lurking beneath, were millions of aggressive alligators. Then again, none of us were ever attacked. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm..
    Maybe those alligators weren’t that aggressive..or, may not have even been present.

  16. This is the Brits again so you can’t get all that upset. They seem to be on a mission to remove any potentially dangerous item or activity from the lives of everyone, kids & adults, in the realm.

  17. The no swimming goggles policy is not mainly about safety. Swimming goggles are discouraged in swimming lessons for beginners (which is what is generally taught in schools) because they tend to disrupt the class and because in learning to swim as a life skill getting used to water splashing in the face and eyes is a necessary component.

    Members of competitive school swim teams will not be banned from wearing goggles. And I doubt kids who go along to school clubs would be either.

    Councils who implement a no goggles policy for school lessons are simply following the recommendations of the Swimming Teachers Association. I suspect they quote the lesser reason of goggle safety (which is noted, as there have been some eye injuries in the past) because they lack the time, imagination or inclination to think of any reason other than safety for banning anything.

  18. My cousin broke her finger when an exercise band broke on her. Granted she’s an adult, but it HURT! And it limited her activity for a time! I say…ban exercise bands too!!!

  19. “CAUTION: The surgeon general has determined that doing anything, anytime, anywhere can be hazardous to your health”

    That’s what my facebook status said last night (from status shuffle). Let’s just ban living…it’s dangerous and always ends in death.

  20. And they still let children carry lethal pencils around with them? It’s an outrage! By the way, do we have any figures on the number of paper cuts suffered annually? That stuff must be banned NOW!

  21. Okay, so I actually hate goggles.

    We have a pool, and my five children all swim without goggles. It is not uncommon for visiting friends to have major meltdowns if their parent forgets their goggles – in the eyes of most children (no pun intended), it is impossible to consider entering a swimming pool without goggles on.

    I know chlorine is a big issue – are pools over-chlorinated these days? I suppose they are, given the ubiquitous germ phobia that exists in the population. Nobody wants to be sued because little Johnny caught a cold that could possibly be blamed on an underchlorinated pool (or any of five hundred other situations that might ACTUALLY be to blame).

    Still, snapping straps??? THAT’s a ridiculous reason to ban them.

  22. Growing up, my BFF always took the straps off her goggles and just suctioned them to her face.

  23. I don’t doubt that this sort of thing happens all the time, but it’s worth keeping in mind that if there is one thing the British are better at than banning an outrageous amount of stuff, it’s getting so outraged about the merest possibility that health and safety has gone mad that they latch on to false or misrepresented stories. There is every possibility this is true (and I’m sure the telegraph believes it, at least), but we are talking about a country that is still angry that kids can’t play conkers anymore, even though it has never actually been banned (it was actually a school teacher making a point about ridiculous regulations, that the daily fail misreported).

    That said, I hated goggles. I wouldn’t ban anyone else from using them (of course!) but it would have been nice to have this sort of (ridiculous) excuse every time someone tried to force them on me.

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  25. They are banning goggles but still letting them swim? If you are that extremely paranoid as to think the goggles could cause injury, what about the pool? Isn’t drowning a more reasonable fear? I say ban swimming class!

  26. I agree that is a ridiculous reason to ban goggles. When a goggle strap breaks, it doesn’t snap against your face… it just sort of goes limp. I do think kids need to learn to swim without goggles, though.

  27. I would refuse to swim underwater without goggles, especially in a highly chlorinated pool. The children of Britain should refuse to dip a toe in the pool until the ban is rescinded.

  28. I don’t agree with the ban, I swam competitively for about 15 yrs and only once heard of someone doing damage to their eyes. So multiply the tens of thousands of people swimming in Australia any given year by 15 and you get a very small number, then multiply it by the fact that the person who hurt themselves was being an idiot at the time and you come up with an even smaller number.

    Why do people only look at the consequences when assessing the risk, worse that could happen is loosing an eye, hurt pride is the most likely outcome, but then look at the likelihood of it actually happening!

  29. That is just ridiculous. With the a amount of chlorine they put pools, kids need goggles. ugh…

  30. Actually, rubber bands ARE banned from the school where I work!

  31. OMG what will they think of next? My bathing suits straps are pretty snappy, perhaps we should all be swimming naked too?

  32. For those asking, my understanding is that “we” in the US have an increased awareness of the damage chlorine and related off-gassing (from pools) can do to the lungs (there were actually several interesting articles in the NYT in the past few years about how competitive swimmers have many more lung/breathing problems/conditions than one would predict, given their fitness level) and have therefore found ways to reduce/replace chlorine. My own local indoor pools not only have much higher roofs/better air circulation than did the pools of my youth (in the same town) but do seem to use much less chlorine in the water. I’m not qualified to comment on the overall health implications of the change, but I personally do find the odor/air less irritating (and to my eyes, also), so those saying that pools today must be even more chlorinated than pools used to be may be wrong — though I can’t claim to have studied a representative sample.

  33. My kids hate swimming without goggles in public pools, as the amount of chlorine used in public pools is so high. I can certainly see that kids playing with their goggles can slow down the class, but it’s not a serious safety issue. Not knowing how to swim when family members we visit regularly have a pool is a safety issue. Their swimming lessons each year are a major part of how they learn to be safe in and near the water.

  34. At a complete loss for words.

  35. Oh yes, chlorine in the eyes is so much safer!

  36. Eat right, exercise, don’t drink, don’t smoke, wear approved safety equipment, don’t wear disapproved safety equipment, check approval list before doing ANYTHING as the weenies change their minds daily.

    Die anyway.

  37. As a former certified pool maintainance worker, (required by the health department) I was taught that it was not the chlorine so much as it was the Ph. Unfortunately, the optimum Ph to get the best use out of the chlorine, meant that the Ph was at a level that hurt the eyes. Different types of pool sanitation methods use different Ph levels, but because of cost differences, chlorine still tends to be the cheapest for most pools. Hot tubs will generally use something different than chlorine because chlorine breaks down too quickly in the heat to be effective.

    As a swim teacher, when lessons usually last a half hour, unless the child has prescription goggles, I prefer that they not use the goggles. Too much lesson time is taken up fooling around with them and distracts from the lesson. Also, if a child should happen to fall into water, I would prefer that they think about how to get out of the water, and not worry about the water in their eyes. And yes, young kids who use the goggles in the pool also want to use them in the lake and the river.

    But, that is my personal experience as a teacher of young children. Kids and teens who spend hours doing laps for swim team, or who are driving home afterwards, that is different. I would have no problems with that.

  38. What a lethal weapon has become the word “COULD”.

    Yes, they COULD snap the goggles on their face and hurt themselves, yes indeed they could.

    And if they DO, they will be in pain a short time and hopefully figure out to not snap them again. They COULD very well snap them again. In which case, repeat. In the olden days we used to call this concept “learning,” or “life learning,” or “live and learn.” How come those phrases have become casualties of “could”?

    For the record, both my kids took swimming lessons from the time they were babies and neither to my knowledge snapped their goggles into their face, nor did I worry about such a thing happening.

  39. Good grief. Next thing you know they’re going to ban teachers from wearing bras because students might pull back on the elastic as a mean prank.

    Well actually I might LIKE that rule foe what it means for me as a dad during parent-teacher conferences.

    Oh okay, that was horrible. But sometimes you need humor to distract from something as ridiculous as this.

    LRH
    Blackberry Bold 9000

  40. I have to say that as absurd as this policy is, I wouldn’t be surprised if it started with some kid pulling the goggles off of some other kid and letting them snap back in his face. I imagine that would hurt a lot and result in many tears and a lengthy disruption. The quickest way to solve this problem? No more goggles.

    I don’t believe anyone can stop bullying by forbidding things, but I think there might be a bit more to this story than what is being said.

  41. “Isn’t drowning a more reasonable fear? I say ban swimming class!”

    Sure it is, but banning swimming class only means less kids would be able to cope with water and more would drown as a result.

  42. It’s pretty bad when you ban something on the basis of a worst case scenario, when the worst case isn’t even that bad.

    What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen as a result of snapping a goggle strap, under conditions freakishly coming together to create the worst possible outcome?

    A small cut? For a 1 in 10,000,000 chance of a child somewhere getting a small cut, we ban something? (And yes, if you’re kid is hemophiliac or immune suppressed or otherwise significantly endangered by a small cut or bruise, don’t let him wear goggles.)

    helenquine might be right that “safety” isn’t the real reason but it’s easier than explaining the real reason, but it’s still extremely stupid to promote that kind of “safety conscious” reasoning if that’s the case. Besides, even if those who say that it’s better teaching practice for kids not to have goggles are right, I’m not sure this is an appropriate determination for the school to make across the board, rather than providing the accurate information and letting kids or parents make the decision.

  43. I was a swim instructor a few summers ago and we were actually asked to have kids (especially beginner swimmers) not wear goggles if possible. Not for safety though – kids rely on goggles too much and then flip out when water gets near their eyes, so if they learn to get their faces wet (with their eyes open and closed), it’s better for them in the long run. So this story is rediculous for its reasoning, but I just wanted to add my 2 cents.

  44. LOLOLOLOLOL!! Seriously, these people who make up new rules need to get a psychological evaluation before they try and pass these dumb ass rules. And really, I’ve heard A LOT of dumb thing things, to the point that I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming or in la la land. This, is one of them. Here’s one…

    Medical reason: Chlorine is bad for your eyes if exposed too long.

    And we all know, what happens even spending 15 min in a pool with out goggles. How about this, instead of making dumb ass rules, they educate the dummies that don’t know how to put on a pair of goggles. Because I can guarantee you, there are much, much less of those people than those that NEVER had any issues. A few dumb apples (including the officials making the rules) shouldn’t ruin it for the rest of them.

  45. @ Laura: For something like that, then I would completely agree. There’s a purpose for asking kids learning to swim not to wear goggles. To get them used to water hitting their eyes. But not those knit wits reasoning.

    One of the comments of that article mentioned that his daughter hurt herself when her arm got caught in her bathing suite as she was putting it on. Does that mean they should make a rule to NOT wear bathing suits? Some people are so illogical to the point of stupidity.

  46. They are absolutely right. I think I’m going to make my children stop wearing underwear, too, for fear of elastic snaps and wedgies. What is wrong with people?

  47. I’m thinking water is dangerous….you could drown, slip, ingest, shrivel and god knows what else. Also the sides of the pool are pretty hard and the steps are slippery. Public swimming pools should take care of all of those hazards and just have children take their swim lessons standing, fully clothed on a dry, level surface sans goggles.

  48. Off topic but some of your recent posts had me really thinking about children and danger as I watched “Dogs of War’ on ABC ‘Australian Story’ http://www.abc.net.au/austory/ , last night. In brief this is a documentary about a dingo protection activist who was taken to court by Park Services for prohibited contact with dingoes on a tourist island. The activist herself had video footage of a child under her supervision being ‘nipped’ by a dingo. The whole documentary makes a very strong discussion around danger ( and there are human fatalities in this story), human (both individual and political) and wild animal behaviour. I think you can view the documentary online from the website. Well worth a look for anyone interested in the hard edge of children, danger, nature.

  49. My kids all swim competively and I swim several miles a day for exercise and we absolutely could not do what we do without goggles. Pools are full of chemicals these days and even small amount of water in sensitive eyes is really painful. When my youngest first started taking lessons at the age of three, the teacher tried to tell my son he could not wear goggles and I went to the aquatics director at the pool and had the teacher overruled. peronsally, I wish all pools were salt water. That would be heaven…

  50. There is *no way* my daughter would even take swimming lessons w/o goggles. And what’s more dangerous–getting snapped by a strap, or not knowing how to swim at all?

  51. I was a swimmer for 8 years, and after I quit it was a full six months before I stopped smelling chlorine on my skin. Yuck.

    I was one of those weirdos who wore noseplugs in addition to goggles.

  52. You need to check this website as it exposes this story for the beat-up it is: http://www.minority-thought.com/2011/03/about-those-bans-on-swimming-goggles.html

  53. I love reading your blog and literally have to pick my jaw off the floor on this one!!! Except maybe it’s stuck there in amazement!!!

  54. When I was teaching swimming lessons, the younger kids were the ones who I did not want wearing the goggles. Older kids who have more laps to swim, and can control the goggles and themselves, eh, they are fine. Beginners need to get a bit of water in their eyes just so they don’t freak out. Honest.

  55. I am 14 years old. I go to a school that is extremely over-protective! Rubberbands are consided a weapon and if you are caught with one, you get the same punishment as if you carry a knife or gun! It’s ridiculous! But this is just the beginning:

    Every year we have people from the Center for Missing & Exploited children come and tell us that all people in the world are evil and want to kidnap, rape, and kill you. They tell us that if someone you don’t know walks up to you, (No, not say “excuse me” or “hello”) but WALKS UP TO YOU, you immediately run away and start screaming. Seriously, you are coming to a Middle School?! After 9 years of school, it has been drilled into my head that all strangers are bad and that every little thing in life is dangerous. A year ago when my father told my family about this website, I’ve been lees afraid. It used to be that I wouldn’t go anywhere with out my brother or sister. But thaks to Free Range Kids, I’ve learned that people in the world are here to help you, and not to kidnap you! Thank you Free Range Kids!

  56. i love your blog and agree that the world has gone soft where everyone is concerned.to be fair,we british are considered eccentric at the best of times but we think the rules/laws etc are stupid as do you all however these laws etc are made by the european parliament etc not ours so every european country has to abide by them whether we like it or not.

  57. steffiw – That’s nonsense. This has nothing to do with European laws. It’s not even a law, it’s a local authority’s policy for school swimming lessons.

    If all the UK’s health and safety laws were foisted on an unwilling government by overly cautious mainland Europeans you could expect to see a slow and lax take up in the UK in contrast to an embraced culture of safety at all costs on the rest of the continent. And that isn’t the reality is it? Health and safety laws in the UK are the way they are because our government and culture have embraced the perspective that it is always someone’s fault and it’s better safe than sorry.

  58. This reminds me of my husband who was given an ‘isolation’ in maybe the 2nd grade for destroying school property…
    The property? A paper clip.
    How was it destroyed? Bending it.

    My poor, traumatized husband.

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