The director of health and safety at the American Lifeguard Association says text messaging by lifeguards has become a serious concern. Bernard J. Fisher II heard plenty of complaints this year, and he says the problem is the result of reduced lifeguard wages and aquatic facilities being unable to both hire well-qualified guards and supervise those guards as closely as they might have in the past, due to budget constraints. "Because of the lack of pay, you can't pick and choose the caliber of guard you need," Fisher told The New York Times. "Plus, the current generation is a generation of texting. Lives are being endangered, if not already lost, because of text messaging."
Here's proof:â¢ In July, a child panicked in the water at the Duncan (Ariz.) Swimming Pool and was rescued by an adult patron. Witnesses said a lifeguard on duty at the time had been texting. He was later fired.
â¢ In July 2009, a 45-year-old Illinois man drowned at a residential community beach where a lifeguard was texting at the time the incident occurred, according to witnesses.
â¢ In March 2008, a 10-year-old Irish boy died at the bottom of a Dublin pool's deep end; the only lifeguard on duty admitted he was sending text messages shortly before the boy drowned.
"It kind of takes my breath away, but younger people have the capacity and the expectation to be able to communicate all the time," Paul Atchley, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, told Times reporter Bob Tedeschi. "When they are excluded from texting networks, their self-esteem declines. I don't think it's [a] compulsion to multitask as much as it is a compulsion to belong."
Even texting in short bursts breaks standard rules for lifeguarding, which is why most facilities ban text messaging by guards on the job.