Scuba diving is an activity that amazes and opens up a whole new world of adventure, discovery, and wonder for anyone who tries it. But is it safe for kids? At what age should children be allowed to dive? And what are the benefits and risks of scuba diving for young people? These are some of the questions that many parents and instructors face when considering introducing children to the underwater realm.
The Minimum Age for Scuba Diving
There is no universal agreement on the minimum age for scuba diving. Different training agencies have age limits, ranging from 8 to 12 years old. These are junior certification levels. However, these are not absolute rules, only recommendations based on average physical and mental development stages.
The minimum age for scuba diving also depends on the type and depth of diving. For example, PADI (the Professional Association of Dive Instructors) allows children as young as eight to participate in their Bubblemaker program, introducing them to scuba diving in a pool or confined water up to 2 meters (6 feet) deep. Children aged ten or older can enroll in the Junior Open Water Diver course, which allows them to dive up to 12 meters (40 feet) deep with a parent or guardian.
Each child should be individually assessed by their parents and instructors based on their physical, mental, and emotional maturity, as well as their interest, motivation, and comfort level.
The Controversies of Children Diving
Children and diving are not without controversy. There are many concerns and debates about the safety and suitability of scuba diving for kids, ranging from medical issues to psychological challenges. Some of the most common controversies are:
Ear Infections and Barotrauma
Children are more prone to ear infections than adults, as their Eustachian tubes are narrower and more horizontal, making them less effective at equalizing pressure in the middle ear. Children are at risk for middle-ear barotrauma, the most common diving injury. Children need to learn how to equalize their ears properly and gently. They should also avoid diving when they have a cold or congestion.
Children have a higher metabolic rate than adults, meaning they burn more calories and generate more heat. In cold water, they can tolerate lower temperatures better than adults. However, once they run out of calories, they can lose heat quickly, as they have a higher body-mass-to-surface-area ratio than adults. They need adequate thermal protection and shorter dives to prevent hypothermia.
Children have smaller lungs and airways than adults, which may make them more susceptible to air trapping and gas expansion injuries, such as pneumothorax or arterial gas embolism. These are rare but potentially fatal complications if a diver ascends too fast or holds their breath while diving. Children with asthma or other respiratory conditions need careful evaluation by a physician before diving. Respiratory ailments may increase their risk of pulmonary problems.
Bone Growth Deformities
One of the most controversial issues about children and diving is the possible effect of high pressure on bone growth. Some studies have suggested that exposure to high pressure may cause changes in the growth plates of bones, leading to reduced height or deformities in later life. However, these studies observed animals or professional divers exposed to much higher pressures and longer times than recreational divers. There is no conclusive evidence that recreational diving affects bone growth in children, but more research is needed to confirm this.
Perhaps the most significant concern about children and diving involves their psychological maturity and cognitive ability. Children may not have the emotional stability, reasoning skills, or self-control to handle the stress and challenges of the underwater environment. They may not understand or follow the safety rules and procedures. They may panic or act impulsively in an emergency. They may also be easily distracted or influenced by peer pressure, which can compromise their judgment and decision-making. Children must communicate effectively with their instructor or buddy, express any discomfort or problems, and adhere to the dive plan.
Feel Free to drop a line to By the Shore SCUBA Instruction for more details on your particular diving interests. Meet Kevin Alexander our main PADI dive master for trips, advice, and more details to improve your dives.
The information provided by BY THE SHORE on this website is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment regarding SCUBA diving or any related activities. SCUBA diving involves inherent risks and dangers that may result in serious injury or death. You should always consult with a qualified instructor, doctor, or other relevant professional before engaging in SCUBA diving or any related activities. BY THE SHORE does not assume any responsibility or liability for any loss, damage, injury, or death that occurs from your use of the information on this website. Follow the advice in this article at your own risk.
If you want to learn more about children and diving, here are some sources and web links that you can check out: