Sports Law • Risk Management

October 4, 2010: No Texting While Supervising

While swimming my usual mile in a lifeguarded pool, I noticed something horrifying---at least to my safety trained eyes. The lifeguard had his cell phone in hand and appeared to be texting! He did this while small children and adults swam at their own peril. The scene was less dramatic than it might appear. Swim lessons were taking up half the lanes and there was an instructor in the pool for every few children. Parents filled the stands as well, some of them also focusing more on their cell phones than on their young charges. If texting while driving is dangerous, isn’t supervising children swimming or playing sport equally as hazardous?

With cell phones in the hands of almost everyone, it should be assumed that serious injury and accidents will occur when people participating and watching sport and recreation are using such devices. Baseball fans that are seated in the stands will have increased chance of being hit by balls if they are distracted by texting. This would also be true in any other ball sport, such as golf, soccer, or basketball. Where supervision is necessary in sports such as gymnastics, swimming or any sport or recreation activity with children participants, cell phone use can be dangerous. Of course, some sports actually involve operating a vehicle, such as golf carts and bicycles. Certainly, texting or using a cell phone in those pursuits is not advised. And then there is the matter of cell phone use in locker rooms where such use has commonly been prohibited because of cameras that may invade users’ privacy.

In some venues, such as Hawaii Federal Court, cell phones are actually prohibited and must be left with a security person before entry is allowed. Should sport and recreation facilities do the same? Probably not. Taking cell phones away from patrons increases liability and also takes away a means of calling for assistance if a problem at the facility or event arises. It is probably best to develop cell phone and texting rules and guidelines and communicate them to participants and patrons.