Would you let your kid swim with sharks?

Jul 8, 2012 at 6:25 p.m. ET

The parents of a 5-year-old girl who they let swim with sharks during their vacation in the Bahamas are facing severe criticism after their video on YouTube went viral. Not everyone thinks they were in the wrong, however. Read on to learn why.

Totally cool or completely crazy?

David and Elena Barnes posted a video on YouTube from their recent Bahamian vacation that featured their 5-year-old daughter, Anaia, snorkeling in shallow water with a few different types of sharks. Since then, the video has been viewed by nearly 400,000 viewers and judgment has rained down on this family who simply wanted to share a fun experience.

Swimming with sharks

They signed up for a trip with Power Boat Adventures out of Nassau, Bahamas, who have been offering families an opportunity to swim with several varieties of sharks, such as nurse, reef and lemon sharks for over 20 years. David and Elena were with Anaia the whole time and never felt that she was in danger.

“She was safe the whole time, experts agree,” Elena wrote on the YouTube video’s description. “We would never toss her in with great whites, tiger or bull sharks. Also, we were both with Anaia the whole time, and by the time we were in the water, the shark's behavior was completely different than the beginning of the video.” However, many people around the globe simply thought they were out of their minds for allowing their daughter to swim with sharks.

Bad parenting

For quite a few, there was no question that this couple placed their child in danger, and that their actions were completely irresponsible. “I wouldn't put my child in an enclosed pen with a large number of cats or dogs,” said a Huffington Post commenter. “Animals are animals and a 5-year-old is a 5-year-old. What ever happened to common sense?” Another commenter agreed. “This case would fall under the neglect side of any investigation,” she wrote. “The question is — did the parents knowingly and willingly subject the child to a dangerous activity or situation? The answer is yes.” 

Check out some summer vacation safety tips for kids >>

No big deal

Others felt that this has been blown way out of proportion and that those who are condemning these parents should do a little more research. “This sort of attraction is all over the Bahamas and the creatures get used to the routine and know what to expect,” shared Danielle who lives in the Bahamas. “As parents, most of us wouldn't put our kids in dangerous situations and this one is no more dangerous than if they were snorkeling in open water on a reef.”

Lindsay, mom of one, agreed. “I honestly don't see a difference between this and taking your child to the beach — except that this is a controlled environment,” she explained. “Any time you take your child to the beach you are knowingly putting your child in with sharks, jellyfish and stingrays.”

Learn how to safely take your kids to the beach >>

Kudos for Mom and Dad

And still others felt that her parents should be commended for getting their child outdoors to have a one-of-a-kind experience. “Looks safe to me — and the family is having an awesome time,” said Melody, mom of two. A Huffington Post commenter felt the same. “We must protect our children but we cannot and should not shelter them from the world,” he wrote. “They will grow up terrified of it and they will experience nothing of substance.”

Have we become too cautious and overprotective of our kids? Are we, as parents, too afraid of the dangers to let them experience the natural world for themselves? Kids are at risk every time they step in a car — maybe more of a risk than this girl was around these particular sharks. What do you think?

Watch the video of the little girl swimming with the sharks


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