According to PADI (the Professional Association of Dive Instructors) children can be certified as Junior Open Water Divers as early as the age of 10. Children develop physically and mentally at different rates, making it difficult to define an age at which all children can safely dive. A child's maturity, reasoning skills, and physical limitations should be taken into account when determining if he is ready to begin scuba diving.
Hyperbaric scientists cannot take young children diving and expose them to various dive profiles and risk factors just to see how many get decompression illness or dive-related injuries. Such experiments would be unethical. Much of the debate about children and diving stems from the fact that there is no concrete experimental evidence to prove that scuba diving is either safe or dangerous for children.
Scuba diving certification agencies allow children to enroll in scuba classes, but not all kids and teenagers are ready to handle the stress of the underwater environment and the theory work required for a diving course. PADI suggests that if the following questions can be answered in the affirmative, a child may be ready to enroll in a scuba diving certification course-
• Does the child want to learn to dive? (This should not be the merely desire of his parents and friends.)
• Is the child medically fit to dive? See the basic diving medical requirements.
• Is the child comfortable in the water, and can he swim? He will need to pass a swimming test.
• Does the child have a sufficient attention span to listen to and learn from class discussions, pool and open water briefings and debriefings and other interactions with an instructor?
• Can the child learn, remember and apply multiple safety rules and principles?