Swimming with sharks has taken on a new meaning.
A recent YouTube video, which has gone viral, shows a 5-year-old girl named Anaia whose parents allowed her to swim, even though supervised, with several types of sharks while on vacation.
The little girl doesn’t seem scared, and in fact, she appears to have enjoyed herself. The parents, of course, have made the rounds of the TV talk shows, stating they don’t think they did anything wrong and that it’s the way the family works. Mom says they are simply adventurous. However, since the video has circulated, there has been a backlash from other parents calling them irresponsible.
If listen closely and you can hear the mother saying to her daughter that she can’t go in the water quite yet because the sharks "are still hungry." A few minutes later, they let her snorkel with the sharks.
They posted to video share with family and friends but never expected it to go viral.
“There have been no attacks, and they have been doing it for 20 years. We swam with reef, lemon, and nurse sharks, all very low on the aggression index, yet still very thrilling! Put it on your bucket list,” the mother wrote on the YouTube post.
So what about the long-term effects of the experience for the little girl, and should parents in general be so lenient with their kids, possibly putting them in danger?
One local expert and a renowned parenting consultant, Dr. Ann Corwin, based in Laguna Niguel, saw the video and weighed in.
“Our No. 1 job as parents is to protect our children. These parents clearly thought there was no danger to their daughter swimming with sharks or at least what they assessed as a low risk,” she said. “What I think is more important to understand about this story is that these parents believed that they were, 'nurturing the adventurous spirit' (their quote) in their child by exposing her to this experience at 5 years.”
Every day, well meaning parents expose their kids to experiences which they assume their kids will feel the same about as they do, but the reality is children's brain function so differently than adults that their experiences can be very different, she said.
“So, in this case it is very important for the parents to allow their child to own their real feelings about the experience so the child can deal with whatever they feel. Looks as though the child was happy about the experience or she could of been just mirroring her parents joy at exposing her to swimming with the sharks,” Corwin said.
“But, if she had been afraid or disappointed in the experience it is imperative that the parents be able to help her deal with the way she was feeling, even if they thought, as parents, that she should of enjoyed the experience.”
For the past 2 years Corwin has been working on a project that teaches parents how to deal with the way their kids feel, so whatever experience or at any age, kids are equipped to handle their strong emotional system. It is called "Pocket Full of Feelings" and will be launched from Dr. Ann's web site theparentingdoctor.com.
But parents like Brian Greene, who works at a local hospital says he would never put his child anywhere near one shark, let alone several.
“I have a 4-year-old boy and would NEVER put him in harm's way like that. Incredibly irresponsible,” he said.
Another local parent and kindergarten teacher, Rita Morgan, who has five kids says she would leave it up to her husband, Marco, to decide.
“He has more of an upper hand than I do and he can stand his ground,” she said. “I’d be the one who would probably say OK, they can go with the right supervision. They would also need the right precautions taken beforehand. Neither one of us would want to put our kids in danger, we would research it. I’m more of the adventure-seeker, so I’d say let them go.”
She said two of her boys 8, and 10, are already taking surf lessons, and the other three kids are water safe. All of them, ranging in age from 3 to 10, can swim.
“Even when we take them out in the ocean, we never let them go further out than 20 feet, and I am always in the water with them," said dad, Marco.
As for the kids, two of the five said they would love to swim the sharks if they had the opportunity. One, a girl, the other a boy.
As parents, what would you do? Tell us in comments if you would let your children swim with sharks.