What is the minimum age that a kid can start diving?
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I have to admit, even as a PADI member I am hestitant about training kids 10 years of age - but as has been widely mentioned above - it depends on the kid.
The youngest child I taught was a 13 year old girl and she was brilliant. She'd worked out how to use the RDP before I'd taught her anything more than what it did and how to use the instruction book. She was fearless, confident and sensible and I'd rather dive with her than a large number of my other customers. Yesterday a friend of mine was teaching an 11 year old who was asking questions about arterial gas embolism...
Judgment is required. Some 10 year olds are like teenagers already, some young teenagers are built and act like 10 year olds....
Walter makes some good points about the physiological differences between kids and grown ups but the PFO is as much a problem for adults as kids - the left-right shunt should close soon after birth. I've dived with plenty of adults who have sinus and eustachian tube problems and the only PFO case I know of (personally) happened to a woman in her 20s. Alveolar channels may well be smaller in kids but my understanding is that this does not necessarily mean that they will become "blocked" under pressure - i.e. gas will take the path of least resistance and escape via smaller bronchioles before the alveolar wall bursts. I understand problems are more likely to occur in an unhealthy, fat eating, older adult smoker than a child. Nevertheless, care and attention must be given to the fact that kids are very different to adults.
(As always - I'd appreciate medical people correcting me... this is is, after all, what I have been taught by medical people!)
My main concerns with teaching kids are to do with the phsychological predisposition of the child. Kids think they are invulnerable and in a way that can make them very very good students in terms of confidence... and most of them will also treat the "dangers" very very seriously indeed, and I've heard some kids lecture their parents on what they're doing wrong!! On the other hand, they really have to *know!* Other concerns I have include the development of asthma during puberty which, if a child learns to dive at age 10 and may occur *after* certification. Will parents and children be responsible enough to take this into account?
I'd personally like to see the age brought back up to 12 - regardless of my status and the auspices under which I work.
This is just another one of those questions that can't be answered with some pithy comment but I'll try anyway.
It depends. Every kid is different and every response should be tailored to a specific kid. I personally know some 11 YO divers that have it together and dive very well. I also know a few fully grown adults that have no business strapping on a scuba tank. So, like many others correctly stated, it depends.
I'm glad to hear your grandson has shown an interest and aptitude for diving! But from my teaching experience, I stand by my statement, That "MOST" 10 year olds in "MY OPINION" , Don't grasp the very vital information required. Yes, they can descend and clear their ears adjust their buoyancy. Thats the easy part! I actually find children pick this up faster than adults. It's the basic physics and physiology required to keep themselves safe. Kids don't always think about the bad things that can happen to them because adults work so hard to keep them safe. In diving as you know there is a lot of self responsibility. Bad things can happen.
I agree that the scholastic concepts of diving are probably not well retained. They did have to know enough to pass the very same written exam as any adult but I doubt that the information is retained.
However, walk up and down the beach and see how well the adults have retained the information. My guess? Not at all. It's an absolute certainty that a huge percentage of the adult divers couldn't work a dive table problem if their life depended on it. And it might.
In fact, there are a couple of threads running around on this board advocating the complete elimination of tables. Just use your computer and you'll be safe. Utter nonsense! But that's the way the industry is going.
Allowing a class to be taught with the eRDP (just plug in the numbers) guarantees that the student (adult or kid) knows absolutely nothing about the tables. This downgrade is a mistake.
I suppose I am rationalizing the failing of a youngster by pointing out that the adults are no better.
There is a reason that kids have to dive with adults. They don't think like adults and someone needs to be there to keep them safe. It's also true that they won't be great dive buddies. They certainly can't rescue an adult. But, so what? How many adults can really rescue another diver? A very small percentage are trained to do so.
Our approach is simple: Keep the dives shallow. There is no need to go below 30'. Keep the dives short. My grandson uses an Al 50 and he matches pretty well with his father using an HP 100. Both tend to come back with a lot of air. Keep the dives safe. No reaching in holes, no swimming through tunnels, no confined spaces, no <fill in the list of unsafe things>. Watch him like a hawk.
Train the parent(s). OW, AOW, Rescue (First Aid, CPR as well) as a minimum. The Rescue course is particularly important. Among other things, it discusses stress and how to deal with it.
There are really two kinds of divers (as I see it): There are those that learned just enough to pass OW and will never take an additional class. They dive but know very little about what's going on around them. Then there are those that take this stuff seriously. They take OW, AOW, Rescue and perhaps a few specialties (Nitrox, Deep, Navigation, Search and Recovery) in an attempt to know a great deal about what's going on. There is also the tech bunch but I'm only discussing recreational divers.
I view kids as being in the first category. Not by sloth but just because they are kids. They can move to the second category over time. But there is a much higher probability that they will take additional classes simply because, at a young age, they are interested in the subject. The marine environment fascinates them. This isn't just another resort diver in training.
I agree and have in no way said ALL 10 year olds are incapable of learning what is nesessary to become divers. I also agree that many certified adults shouldn't be unsupervised in a bath tub!
However, The development mentaly and physicly of 10 year olds is a major issue for instructors.
Fortunately PADI gives me final say on who I allow in my classes. Also a child of 10 years old may not have even wanted to learn to dive but pushy parents sign them up for lessons so mom or dad doesn't have to sit topside on that next tropical vacation.
I dislike the focus on ages in the courses and wish agencies could focus more on whether kids can develop the skills (which in turn would take the courage to fail younger kids when necessary).
I remember asking an instructor why it was that they wouldn't certify kids for Nitrox until they were 15, and he answered "they can't handle the maths". Well, my son can handle the maths... why should he get held back?
My son just completed his Jr. Open water this past weekend, he is 13.5 years old. He has been wanting to dive for the past 2 years, but we used diving as a reward for doing homework and working on self discipline. I had all of his gear ready and kept the emphasis on trying to create a rig and setup that would not be too cumbersome or heavy. I ended up doing pretty well in that we are diving southern California waters with no additional lead. He is using a 57 cubic foot steel scuba pro cylinder, a dss backplate and wears a 6/5 wetsuit and hood. By about the 3rd certifying dive he now has a pretty good grasp on buoyancy control and really enjoyed his first 4 boat dives. I am a beach diver and will be showing him the ropes on beach entry, exit, and reading the ripples in the sand etc. Our son is in his 4th year of Jr. Lifeguards and spends weeks in the ocean and on the beach. I believe this to be a great program to get kids ready for diving the beach. He has also been cpr trained and does simulated rescues as part of the program. I think the hardest part for the instructors and the kids is the classroom sessions. They tend to do well in the pool and in the ocean, and by habit don't like to listen to adults. I am thankful to have a new dive buddy and can't wait to get the next 3 kids certified. I will probably wait until at least 12 if not later with all of them.
You can actually get kids diving in a pool at 8 years old with the Padi Bubblemaker program, This is great for the kids as mine loved it! You only go to 6 feet but it really gives the kids confidence especially when you chuck a few coins in for them to find! Young kids are fine if they really want to dive but if they do not then do not push them!
My son just got certified, he's 12. He took the PADI class, with 5 adults. Actually I was surprised that he really paid attention and learned a lot. Now on our surface swims I'm getting quizzed on my dive knowledge. I am surprised and actually have learned stuff that was not taught when I got certified, and the new acronyms, etc. He also had to do a swim test with 4lbs of weight, underwater out of air drills, equipment swaps, and a lot more. The instructor was very thorough. I originally was under the impression that he was taking it with 3 other kids his age and was a little disappointed that he was with just adults. In the end, and having thought about it, etc. I think it was better to have him learn with the rest of the grown ups. We've done several dives since, and he's doing well and practicing skills.
They are not medical impairments. They are perfectly normal for children. They are serious issues that can cause problems for children diving and should give parents reason to wait until their children develop more physically.
That could be either a lack of emotional maturity or simply a lack of training designed to reduce the likelyhood of panic.
I agree, that is why I thought it necessary to work on her skills.