Let's face it: Social media seems to be crawling with trolls who get some kick out of criticizing complete strangers. It's worth pointing out, however, that not everyone who voices concern is automatically a critic. When people speak up about potential safety risks on social media, whether it be about a baby who is improperly buckled into his car seat, or an electrical outlet that isn't covered near a toddler, they sometimes are knocked for "mom-shaming." But this photo of Jinger Duggar's daughter of Felicity has fans concerned for what might be a valid reason.
As a refresher, Jinger and her husband, Jeremy Vuolo, have a 15-month-old daughter, Felicity. And the Counting On couple recently relocated from Laredo, Texas, to Los Angeles, California.
Over the weekend, Jeremy took to Instagram to share some adorable photos of his daughter in a swimming pool. But in response, he got a bit more than he bargained for.
"Just a casual Saturday afternoon in the pool," Jeremy captioned a shot of Felicity grinning while floating in the water wearing a puddle jumper, according to Cheat Sheet. Although plenty of followers commented on how cute the toddler was — and how much she clearly loved the water — some Instagram users expressed concern.
One person wrote, "Please look up the dangers of having those puddle jumpers on, I know a friend on my Instagram whose son passed while drowning due to those being on. She’s adorable."
Another Instagram user declared, "Puddle jumpers are dangerous."
Yet another pool safety advocate commented, "I noticed your daughter is wearing a floatation device and looks to be in a pool without fencing. I feel it’s important to direct you towards levislegacy.com which is a foundation created by a mom whose son died drowning in a pool."
They continued, "SHE thought a puddle jumper was safe but it provides a sense of false security for young children. Her message is about education and to prevent needless tragedies like hers."
That mom the last commenter was talking about? Her name is Nicole Hughes, and in a recent essay published on Today Parenting Community, Hughes detailed how a puddle jumper potentially contributed to the drowning death of her 3-year-old son, Levi, in 2018.
"One year ago, I unknowingly contributed to my son’s death by strapping on this damn puddle jumper. He only knew water was fun, only knew he could 'swim' when he was in the pool," Hughes wrote in the piece, which was published in August.
She added, "... Not only do puddle jumpers in the swimming pool create a false sense of security for the child, but they hinder the ability to learn to self-rescue and swim. Swim instructors have to un-do the muscle memory learned from being held upright." She continued:
"Also, parents (even if unconsciously) let down their guard when their children are in puddle jumpers," she concluded her message. "Instead, we need to stop relying on flotation devices in the pool, get in the water with our children, and teach our toddlers and children to swim. Stop making excuses."
Jinger did not immediately respond to Romper’s request for comment regarding the backlash.
Did you know drowning is responsible for more deaths in children aged between 1-4 than any other cause, aside from congenital anomalies? It's true, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) And contrary to popular belief, puddle jumpers aren't doing much to teach kids how to swim — in fact, they could actually be hindering them. This is because puddle jumpers can cause poor swim posture.
"They force children into a vertical position with their head above the water, feet pointing down and arms out to the side, causing more of a cycling motion in the water," Laura Skilton, a swimming instructor and the director of Baby Squids, a swim school in the UK, told Romper in June. "This is almost the opposite to the natural buoyancy position."
So are puddle jumpers dangerous? That's up for debate. But wearing one arguably doesn't help a child with learning to swim, nor does it replace the presence of an adult right next to the child in a pool. Which is why it seems harsh to slap the label "troll" on Instagram users bringing this important safety information to the Vuolos' attention. Because as adorable and joyful as Felicity is in this photo, it seems these people are only trying to prevent a possible tragedy.