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Parenting Positive Kids Parenting Positive Kids

Parents Defend Letting Daughter, 5, Swim With Sharks

What do you think?


When Elana and David Barnes posted a home video to YouTube of their 5-year-old daughter swimming in the ocean, they intended to share their vacation memories with friends and family, not the world.

But the video quickly became a viral sensation because it shows their daughter, Anaia, not just frolicking in the water but snorkeling with sharks in the waters off the Bahamas.

“Life is too short to be boring,” Elana Barnes told “Good Morning America” of why she and her husband let their daughter swim with the nurse, lemon and Caribbean reef sharks.

The video of Anaia in the water has proven to be anything but boring, provoking a fiery debate online about whether the Ridgefield, Conn., parents were irresponsible in placing their daughter in a potentially dangerous situation.

“When you are an adult, you are allowed to be as reckless as you want to be,” said Ericka Souter, editor of the The Stir on the Café Mom parenting website. “But as parents, it is our job to protect our kids from reckless and dangerous behavior.”

The Barnes say they researched the risks and decided it was worth it to nurture an adventurous spirit in their daughter. The sharks with which Anaia swam are said by animal experts to be rarely aggressive and she was with an instructor the entire time.

“There’s just always risk assessments in life every day,” David Barnes told “GMA.” “I’m more concerned that they don’t put seatbelts in school buses.”


by on Jul. 6, 2012 at 8:36 AM
Replies (181-189):
by on Jul. 10, 2012 at 2:58 PM

Blown out of proportion... definitely.  I want my children to learn about all of God's beautiful creations, including sharks (which I am a bit obsessed with already).

I would have to agree with what the father said about being more concerned that seatbelts aren't in school buses. 

by on Jul. 10, 2012 at 3:34 PM

Those species of sharks are not dangerous to people. I am impressed that the 5 yr old can snorkle. She is much safer knowing how to swim. People drown by the dozens in our state (Michigan)

by on Jul. 10, 2012 at 8:29 PM
This. :)

Quoting Audreesmommy757:

deff blown out of proportion...they were not agressive sharks and it was a controlled enviornment

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by on Jul. 11, 2012 at 11:53 AM
1 mom liked this

I agree.  Although the one mom that swam with the bull shark in the area was a little nuts.  Not to bash but the bull shark is what is attacking humans.  They are very agressive and also the ones that are now adaptable to fresh water. 

Quoting eFreak23:

 Not a big.  Sharks are everywhere.  They have found sharks in lakes even.  They have discovered that sharks are becoming adaptable.  They can survive in fresh waster, as well as salt water, if need be. 


My daughter has been in with sharks and rays, both in a cage and out of a cage. 

by on Jul. 11, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Depending on the type of shark, dolphins can actually be more aggressive and violent.

Quoting AmosFarkle:

Dolphins, yes.  Sharks, NO.

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by on Jul. 11, 2012 at 1:06 PM
So do your children not interact with dogs? Or cats? Or other children who can also decide to be aggressive? All of these have been known to attack at times, no matter how "domesticated" they are. This ideology would also mean no beach, no park, no driving, no school, etc since all of the COULD end up being dangerous.... When do you stop living in fear?

Quoting TigressLily:

I wouldn't let my 5 yr old daughter to do that, and I disagree with things like that at that young of an age... If the sharks did decide to be aggressive, the instructor could NOT have done anything about it as these are wild animals in nature.... not domesticated house pets. Adults doing it with a lot of training and preparation, fine if you want to do it but I never will as I like my life and wouldn't want to take that huge of a risk. No matter how peaceful or aggressive a creature is, no one knows what might set them off to attack at any given moment, rather it's the person or something else in the water such as prey or a threat, or a change in the climate. Anything could happen and that's just a situation I wouldn't put myself in and I definitely wouldn't be putting my child that hasn't even begun to live life into that situation.

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by on Jul. 21, 2012 at 10:49 PM

Quoting IAMmomtotrips:

I think it's being blown out of portion. The sharks she was snorkeling with we're nurse sharks and are less agressive than dolphins!

She was in a more controlled environment than when the average person swims at the beach!

I took all three of my five year olds snorkeling this summer and when we dropped anchor to begin our swim a 7 ft bull shark swam right under the boat! And that did not stop us from snorkeling and he didn't go out of our area...he just stayed away from us. We also found 5 sting rays. It was a great trip!

Yup.  I love the mom's comment about there being no seat belts onschool buses.  We all do things that can endanger our child.  They should be safe, but not sheltered.  I wish could give my DD that opportunity!

by on Jul. 23, 2012 at 8:32 PM

I agreed with you regarding letting a child swim with a docile, harmless nurse shark. I was resounding to the mother who let her kids swim will an agressive Bull Shark. It's more agressive then a great white.

by on Jul. 24, 2012 at 1:17 AM

Quoting sweetlyblissful:

I find it scary. But I guess if they felt their child was safe, then fine. No parent in their right mind would allow their child to be in danger, and be fine with it. (I hope.)
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