Water safety for teenagers and young people

Being by water is a great place to spend time with friends, but it’s important you know how to keep yourself, and your friends, safe.

Couple on Sheffield and Tinsley Canal Friends on Sheffield and Tinsley Canal

There were 277 accidental drownings in the UK in 2021. 62% of these happened at inland waters and 83% of these were male.

These are scary statistics. We want to help you feel confident in making safe choices around water all year round, so that this doesn’t happen to you or your friends.

Water may look safe, especially a familiar stretch of water local to you, but poor decisions around it can create a dangerous situation.

If you need to talk to anyone about the videos below or have questions about how to keep safe near the water, speak to a trusted adult (such as your parent/s, teacher, youth worker, caregiver).

Dossing about with your friends

A hot day in the summer holidays, what better way to cool down than by jumping into your local lock. 

Big mistake.

There may be Tik Tok trends, and there may be dares and bets, but do not try to jump over the canal, jump into a lock or jump off bridges. There are no lifeguards along canals and rivers to help you. Also, if you’re on a secluded part of the water, it will take the emergency services much longer to reach you.

Do you know how deep the water is?  Canals are often quite shallow, and you could easily hit the bottom if you jump from a height. 

Do you know what’s in the water?  Landing on a shopping trolley could really hurt you. Consider that there are diseases and reeds, and also plant life that can tangle around your limbs, possibly dragging you down. 

Just because your friend suggests it, why hurt yourself to show off?

Remember, don’t just be a by-stander, watch out for your mates. Tell them they're doing something dangerous, and they could get hurt.

No matter how strong a swimmer you are, you can't prepare for cold water shock.

James Goodship was a strong swimmer but, tragically, he drowned at Foulridge Reservoir when he was 17. His parents miss him desperately. Hear about his last day.

Cold water shock – the stats

  • Low water temperatures cause the body to go into ‘cold water shock’.
  • It reacts to the cold water by drawing the blood away from muscles to protect the organs and making it difficult to move limbs.
  • The cold water will make you gasp uncontrollably and breathe in water
  • Your heart will beat really fast, you’ll lose energy quickly, and eventually your muscles will become paralysed.

Float to live

Instead, float on your back to keep your airways clear, control your breathing and allow the cold water shock to pass. Then you can call out for help or even swim to safety.

The RNLI have a great video on how to float. This will help you in any stretch of water, not just the sea.

Alcohol and water do not mix

Charlie Pope died on a night out with his friends. He was on his own, he’d been separated from his friends. 

Stick with your friends and make sure they get home safely. 

Last date edited: 14 July 2022