They say parenting is a full-time job. At no time is it more so than when children are in or around water.

With more people using — and being distracted by — cell phones, smart phones and laptops comes the increased chance of a child slipping below the water’s surface unnoticed.

A fascinating story in Monday’s Boston Globe highlighted a variety of common mis-impressions most of us have about how drownings occur.

The story, by Globe correspondent Keith O’Brien, is an eye-opener.

O’Brien’s story is based upon research done 40 years ago by Francesco A. Pia who, at the time, was working as a lifeguard at a busy New York City beach.

Pia had a student film his beach, capturing near-drownings and rescues.

The surprising result? Drownings never happen the way we see them on TV or in movies, with people screaming or waving their arms.

Instead, real drownings happen very quickly and quietly, with victims showing only subtle signs they are in trouble.

Most people can be looking right at a person and not even detect they are struggling or about to drown. So, even attentive parents can be oblivious to a child in danger.

Pia and other lifeguards across the country had been trained to look for what most of us expect, “convulsive agitation,” according to the Globe story.

In reality, drowning victims all demonstrate something he called “instinctive drowning response.”

Victims “flap their arms at their side, as if trying to use the surface of the water as a platform. They go vertical in the water, straight up and down, angling their airways toward the oxygen.”

Instead of thrashing, they may look like they are trying to rapidly climb a ladder.

All of which means people, particularly children, can drown in the middle of a group of people. It also probably explains why so many people tell rescuers that they just looked away for a second, looked back and the person was gone.

A child, according to experts, can be fine one minute and under water in 20 to 60 seconds.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has the following water safety advice for parents:

— Make sure children get swimming lessons between one and four years of age.

— Infants, toddlers and weak swimmers should have an attentive adult within arm’s reach.

— All pools, including inflatables, should have a fence that fully separates the pool from the house.

— Never rely on air-filled swimming aids, like inflatable arm bands, to keep a child safe.

— When at the beach, only swim with a lifeguard present and check beach warnings for strong surf and rip tides.

— Warn teenagers about the dangers of alcohol consumption and drowning.

The beach and swimming season in Maine is short. Attentive parents can help make sure it’s also safe.

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