You've probably seen the video by now. A young woman holds a baby on the edge of a pool, and then, without hesitation, she throws the baby in the pool and climbs in after him. After a few moments, the baby floats to the surface and floats on his back for a moment, and then the instructor lifts him out of the pool.
Krista Meyer, the mom of the baby in the video, posted the video to her TikTok account, where it has over 50 million views. It has since been reposted on Twitter, gone even more insanely viral, and turned into a meme. But it's also sparked a debate about whether this method of teaching babies how to swim is appropriate.
Krista's caption for the video is, "Oliver amazes me every week! I can't believe he is barely two months in and is catching on so fast. He is a little fish." She told BuzzFeed News that this is an infant survival swimming class at a swimming school called Little Fins, so that's the reason for the seemingly traumatic toss into the pool.
"The whole premise behind what we do is safety," Little Fins co-owner Lauri Armstrong said. "We teach 8-month-olds to assess their situation and find an exit strategy [in water]. I know it seems crazy." But Lauri says her swim instructors are trained for months to teach this specialized class, which is not just about making young kids comfortable in water but also teaching them how to recover and not panic if they fall in.
Krista has received intense backlash and criticism, including death threats, for subjecting her baby to a class that some view as traumatic, dangerous, and counterproductive. And it turns out there have been two schools of opposing beliefs on this issue for a while now.
Some say that there's no evidence to support the idea that a program like this actually prevents drowning, and others argue that it may even be traumatic to young brains. But others claim that classes like these can, and indeed have, saved lives.
Lauri defends the choice of Little Fins to toss kids into the pool like that, saying that this doesn't happen during the first lesson and, while she understands the shock factor, there's a reason behind doing it that way. "When kids fall into bodies of water, it's often not pretty. It's often very disorienting," she said. "They have to learn to come up and recover on their own."
Still, some think Little Fins' method is a bit extreme. Jenny Bennett, the cofounder of Parents Preventing Childhood Drowning, told BuzzFeed News these tosses were happening from "unrealistic heights." "The first time I saw [the TikTok], I thought it was shocking," she said.
"It's not too high where the child is dropped into the water, but I've seen some at this facility where the child is held upside down and dropped in. That's very unrealistic and could potentially cause harm."
And yes, there is a video on TikTok showing Krista's older son, Jayce, being thrown into the pool upside down, head first. Lauri says this technique is meant to simulate what a little kid might experience if they fall off of a boat.
Several swimming schools assured BuzzFeed News that they don't throw kids into the water the way Little Fins does or that they don't use as much force as Little Fins instructors seem to in the videos. Krista, for her part, completely trusts the Little Fins method and feels better knowing that her kids will be equipped to handle themselves should an accident happen.
Lauri reiterates that the instructors at Little Fins are highly trained and untrained parents should not use this method to get their kids comfortable in the water. What do you think? Is this an appropriate way to teach infants how to be comfortable in the water?