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Abstract

Rip currents are strong, narrow, offshore flows found on many global beaches and contribute to hundreds of drownings and tens of thousands of rescues each year. Yet despite long-standing educational efforts, public understanding of rip currents is poor. YouTube represents a new visual-based social media platform with the potential to educate a large and global audience about the rip current hazard. This study analyzed the content of 256 rip current–related YouTube videos with over 5 million total views as of March 2, 2015 finding that the accuracy of information disseminated about rip currents on YouTube is mixed and of varying quality. Existing videos are good at emphasizing correct rip current terminology, visual imagery, and a range of escape strategies, but greater emphasis in future videos must be placed on rip current avoidance, particularly through promoting the need to swim near lifeguards and how to spot rip currents.

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