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Pros and Cons of kids getting certified


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#1 sharkbait97

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 10:30 AM

Old thread but my daughter is 10 and I can't wait until she decides to take scuba. I will take the class with her so I can have a dive buddy 24/7.


Note: Thread split off to make its own topic. Please continue this valuable discussion.

Edited by WreckWench, 14 December 2007 - 09:35 AM.

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#2 pir8

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 03:34 PM

Old thread but my daughter is 10 and I can't wait until she decides to take scuba. I will take the class with her so I can have a dive buddy 24/7.

I would not recomend you being in the class with her. Usually it provides a distraction for the child and makes it harder for them. Also instead of listening to the instructor they can tend to look toward the parent. Just something I have seen happen before. But do get her in a class with an instructor used to dealing with kids. Not everyone can teach scuba to kids.
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#3 sharkbait97

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 03:56 PM

I agree somewhat, but for something like scuba diving she is going to be extremely relunctant to taking the class on her own.
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#4 pir8

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 04:11 PM

Thats something she needs to get over I want them to kinda be able to handle themselves before I will certify them. She doesn't need to be in a private class, it just shouldn't have you in it since you are already certified.
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#5 sharkbait97

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 05:32 PM

With all due respect, I think I will take the class with her, diving is a family activity and I see nothing wrong with learning as a family. Again, I am not saying this to flame anyone, just my personal choice.
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#6 JimG

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 06:33 PM

Here is my take on the whole issue of certifying children. This is a really long post, but I hope it will be worth your time to read. If you're curious, my "credentials" regarding children and diving are:
  • I have three children myself (all boys, and all grown - one is married, two are in college). They are all certified divers.
  • I have been a volunteer leader with the Boy Scouts for almost 15 years, and have dealt extensively (and almost exclusively) with developing children in the 10-17 age range.
  • Finally (and probably most importantly), I am an OW instructor with over 13 years active experience teaching, primarily in a University-based program (i.e. young adults).
During my "career" as a dive instructor, I have personally issued over 600 individual certifications at all levels (OW through Instructor), and probably taught at least 50-60 individual SCUBA training courses, and supervised roughly as many dive trips (about half a dozen this year alone). I personally certified all three of my children, who were enrolled as "regular" students in one of my "regular" classes, subject to the same assessment as any other student (i.e. I did not cut them any slack just because they were my kids).

What I learned from all of that is that I personally prefer kids to be a little older before they start SCUBA - at least 15-16 in most cases. Children tend to grow a lot in their early teen years, and the extra height and muscle mass is helpful for the physical demands of diving (handling equipment, etc). This is particularly true with girls, who typically don't have as much muscle mass as boys of the same age. Also, the extra few years of maturity is beneficial too (but probably moreso for boys than girls :banghead:).

There are also some potential health issues that parents of prospective divers should be aware of. I am not a doctor (merely a dive instructor who has done a lot reading), but there are two major physiological concerns related to children and diving. For obvious reasons, there are not a lot of medical studies that have looked at these issues, so most of the risks are hypothetical/anecdotal. It's something to be aware of though, and should definitely be considered before enrolling a child in a diving class.

First is the risk of osteonecrosis, which can affect the growth in a child's bones. The growth plates at the ends of the "long bones" (in the arms and legs) are still developing in children, and there is some concern that physiological changes due to diving can affect that. These growth plates have a higher than normal concentration of blood vessels, and there is some elevated risk of damage due to nitrogen bubbling from breathing compressed air at depth.

Second is a concern over Patent Foramen Ovale (or PFO), which is the "hole in the heart" that all people are born with. This hole closes slowly over time, and is not considered a serious risk in most adults. However, there are estimates that the PFO remains partially open in some 50-60% of teenagers - this leads to an elevated risk of Type II Decompression Sickness (which directly affects the central nervous system) if nitrogen bubbles travel through the hole and reach the brain. In a healthy adult with a closed PFO, these bubbles are filtered effectively by the lungs, so it is less of an issue.

Note that I'm not trying to sound like an alarmist or "scare" anybody. Like sharkbait97, I consider diving to be a "family friendly" activity, and encourage people of all ages to consider taking it up as a hobby. However, it is an activity that is not without some risk. Unfortunately, a lot of the risks are not that obvious, and I think it's important for parents to be aware of what they are exposing their children to.

What I typically recommend for parents of younger children is that they go ahead and get certified themselves, and then build up some diving experience on their own before certifying their child. Most newly certified divers are still struggling a bit with their own skills, and are not really prepared to be supervising someone else (and most especially not a child). I think parents of diving children are much better equipped to deal with situations if they have more experience, and particularly so if they have taken some additional training courses, such as Advanced or Rescue Diver. This allows them to build up a personal comfort level with diving, which will make it easier for them to focus on their kids when they are getting certified. It also allows them to participate in their child's SCUBA experience as more of a "mentor" than a "peer". I personally think that is a more appropriate role for a parent anyway.

Ultimately, the decision depends on the parents' own personal knowledge and assessment of their child and his or her abilities. However, I would definitely consider the risks carefully, and consult with the child's doctor before signing up for a SCUBA course.

I hope that helps in the decision-making process. If anyone has any further questions about anything, then please do not hesitate to ask.

-JimG
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#7 pir8

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 06:35 PM

I was just offering my opinion from what I've seen in the past. You should do as you see fit.
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#8 finGrabber

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 07:38 PM

the other thing to think about is can a 10 or even a 14 year old rescue you? will she have the presence of mind to know what to do if you have an issue while diving?

#9 sharkbait97

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 08:34 PM

Thanks for the help. Again, I am not trying to start any kind of flame war.
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#10 cmt489

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 08:52 PM

Thanks for the help. Again, I am not trying to start any kind of flame war.


Actually, on SD you won't find any flame wars since we do not allow this type of behaviour on this site. What we do allow, and what makes this site so great, are differing views and opinions to provide information to our members to help them make decisions. Everyone's opinion is just that - an opinion. They are not personal and they are not intended to to be taken as such. Here on SD debate is welcome and encouraged but flaming is not allowed.

#11 JimG

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 09:02 PM

Thanks for the help. Again, I am not trying to start any kind of flame war.

I don't think anyone thinks you are trying to do that. It's just that, as I mentioned above, there are some non-intuitive risks associated with diving that many parents are not really aware of, and all we are trying to do is educate folks (including yourself) to the issues. Ultimately, it is up to the parent(s) to decide when and if they feel their child is "ready" for SCUBA - we just want to make sure that people are aware of some of the hazards and considerations. I personally think that 10 years old is way too young, but then I tend to be a tad conservative when it comes to that sort of thing. Obviously not everyone agrees with me on that (or is even required to).

I am sure that when you and your daughter are both certified, you will have a great time diving together, as I have had with my own children over the years. Every child and situation is different, but I don't see any reason to jump into it until you have carefully weighed all the risks, as well as the potential benefits.

And for what it's worth, I certified my oldest son at 12, but he was physically much larger than either of his brothers at that age. I had a couple of scares with him on dives (one serious, one not so serious) that made me realize that 12 is probably a little too young for that sort of activity. My middle son got certified at 14, and I decided after it was done that even that was probably too early (he no longer dives, BTW). With my youngest, I waited until he was 17 - he was physically much smaller, and the extra years made a huge difference in his ability to handle the physical stresses of diving. He really had fun on his checkout dives though, and I was confident enough to just let him enjoy the dives with his buddy, without too much supervision or "hand holding". There is no way I would have done that with the other two.

Best of luck with your daughter, and do keep us posted on her progress.

-JimG
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#12 sharkbait97

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 09:09 PM

I certified when I was 14 but then again havent dove in some time. I just figure it would make a good refresher. I haven't decided when she will take the class, and really neither has she. She will be 11 in Feb and she isnt gung ho yet
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#13 diverdeb

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Posted 10 December 2007 - 11:50 PM

I certified when I was 14 but then again havent dove in some time. I just figure it would make a good refresher. I haven't decided when she will take the class, and really neither has she. She will be 11 in Feb and she isnt gung ho yet


Hi sharkbait97,

Mind if I throw in my 2 cents worth on this one? My first suggestion would be to find a Scuba Rangers program and let her be introduced to scuba that way. First, she will be in a class of her peers, that will take a lot of the pressure off of her. SR is only in the pool or under very controlled circumstances. It's a wonderful program and the instructors are used to working with children. Also, there's no pressure to "master" the skills until they're ready. They don't pass or fail the class because they aren't certified. But seeing their friends do something they're apprehensive about is a great motivator and a comfort factor in that they see kids their own age doing all the things they're learning - and they're having fun! Yes, I'm SR instructor, as well as OW, AOW and some Tech classes.

Second, be very careful about pushing her to get her Jr. OW cert. I speak from experience here, with many SR students, as well as my own daughter. Here's my story: My daughter did SR for a long time with me. She went all the time because it's what I did. When she decided she wanted to get certified - at 13 - I didn't teach her nor was I around for any of her classes. I know you don't want to hear this, but I agree with the other people on here that have told you not to be in the class. I can say that from an Instructor point of view, as well as a parent. Anyway, my daughter got certified with no problems. Our store owner who is an Instructor Trainer taught her. After her class, she went on first boat dive, did fantastic. I never ever pushed her or bugged her to go. She had loved SR. When she was 16, she finally went again, once. She's almost 20 now, and still doesn't dive. It's just not her thing.

I also had a SR that her Dad was a Divecon (divemaster) for our store. He pushed her to get her Jr. OW because she was so good in the pool. We started her classes when she was 10 1/2. She did fine until the OW. She freaked at 20 ft. We refused to do any more classes for a year. A year later, she was fine, got certified, but still only likes to dive shallow.

On the other hand, I had another 12 yr old that I certified and did all of her advanced classes. We nicknamed her "flounder girl" that summer because she was so good at spearing flounder! She was a natural. At 14 she discovered boys and hasn't been diving in a year. lol.

Sorry this was so long. All that to say, my experience (for what it's worth) is to let it be a "kid" thing for her, then step back and let her do it on her own, then she'll want you to join her, I'm sure. And listen to her instructor. If she/he suggests your daughter will do better without you there, they're probably right. In all the kids I've taught (and that's quite a few, over 100), I've never seen one do "better" because a parent was there, but I have seen the opposite be true many times - even with my own.

Please don't feel like anyone is beating you up on this, if we seem a little "opinionated" it's only because we are speaking from experience and want to share that knowledge. Good luck to you and your daughter. I am sure she will do fine and you will choose the best scenario for her - after all, you know her better than anyone! : )

As for me, I'm feeling pretty scubalicious. 


#14 ScubaDrew

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 07:39 AM

. For obvious reasons, there are not a lot of medical studies that have looked at these issues, so most of the risks are hypothetical/anecdotal. It's something to be aware of though, and should definitely be considered before enrolling a child in a diving class.

First is the risk of osteonecrosis, which can affect the growth in a child's bones. The growth plates at the ends of the "long bones" (in the arms and legs) are still developing in children, and there is some concern that physiological changes due to diving can affect that. These growth plates have a higher than normal concentration of blood vessels, and there is some elevated risk of damage due to nitrogen bubbling from breathing compressed air at depth.


Great post Jim! :unhappy:

With all due respect to the above though, I have seen this sentiment many times and just do not understand it. I know we have some docs on site, maybe they can help me out here.

What is so un-ethical about doing a little non-invasive research on kids? Nobody is suggesting we certify kids against their will, or force them to repeatedly dive to 200 feet. If kids are being certified and diving with their parents on their own, is it really so bad to offer them a free MRI and look at those growth plates, and compare them to non-diving kids?

Is it not MORE un-ethical to hypothosize about the potential risks, then continue to certify and not look into any of them? :)

I am sure there are many non-invasive techniques that could be employed to look at many of the issues being thrown out there with regards to the unique health risks diving supposedly imposes on children, and personally I think it behooves us to know a little more about it, especially since kids as young as 10 can get carded and dive all they want.

I think we go a little overboard sometimes with ethics, and sometimes we as a society are also a little too over-protective of kids, and a little more objective POV can be handy...

Anyway, just my questions...
Drew Z.

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#15 Scuba_Dad

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Posted 11 December 2007 - 08:09 PM

Time to add my 2 cents worth...

To put it very simple... some kids are ready to get certified at 10, and some are not. My oldest was certified at age 12. By the time he was 13, I was more confident in his survival skills and his ability to rescue me than many of the adults I dive with. He was ready to get certified.

My daughter was certified at age 10. She was in a class of all adults, and only one adult did better than she did. Now, I will say I had to sit down with her and bring the book down to her level. That's also where my daughter and I started to really bond. As a 12 year old, she took one of my rescue classes. In order to make sure I didn't show her any favortism, I buddied her up with the biggest student in the class. He was a real lead-butted individual. She easily saved his lead-butt in every scenario. The only thing she couldn't do was drag ole lead-butt completely out of the water. Actually, I think I would have had a real hard time dragging ole lead-butt. Needless to say, she's 16 now, and I'll dive with her before I dive with any adult.

Now, my 13 yr old is a different story. He started off in the PADI Seal program as an 8 yr old. He did great! We had a blast diving in the pool. Never a problem. He could perform any skill I threw at him. I thought he was ready. He completed O/W dive 1 & 2 without a problem. On O/W dive#3, he had a total brain dump while clearing his mask. He was try to clear it from the top. Next thing I knew, he was in a classic state of panic. He spit out his reg and bolted for the surface. He drug me all the way to the surface. Fortunately, we weren't very deep, but... I was still very concerned about lung overexpansion. Last summer (3 years later) I finally certified him as an O/W diver.

Since I've been teaching, I taught 10 yr olds who were much better than adults, and I've worked with some 10 yr olds who just were not ready. It all depends on the 10 yr old.

As for taking the class with your daughter? Think twice about it. My opinion... take the class first, then let your daughter take the class. While she's taking the class, sit back and watch. She'll know you're there, and she'll appreciate it. If you take the class with your daughter, you already have enough to learn by yourself... you don't need your paternal instincts kicking in and messing you up. But, that's my opinion. As an instructor, I would try to talk the parent into not taking the class with their child.

Al
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