Children as young as 12 can - and should - learn CPR, according to a new study, which demonstrates the benefit of targeting first-aid training to younger participants.
The research, which was presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2017, assessed the ability of 160 children, aged, on average, 12 years old, to learn hands-only CPR on adults. The study grew out of a sixth-grade science project completed by lead author Mimi Biswa's 12-year-old son, Eashan, whose name also appears on the final paper.
Study participants were divided into three groups, to learn how to perform 100 -120 compressions per minute on adult mannequins. Those in the first group watched a video from the American Heart Association's CPR in Schools Training Kit. The second group watched the video but also listened to music with a beat matching the goal compression rate, while the third group watched the video and played a video game, which also reinforced the goal compression rate. Eashan created the game himself, using a visual programming language called Scratch coding.
The children then tested out their newly-acquired skills on mannequins.
When they analysed the results, the researchers found that while most students remembered to call emergency services, performed CPR in the correct location and provided "high-quality compressions," they did observe differences between the three groups. Goal compression rate was higher in the groups who heard music or played video games than those who only watched the official video.
As such, the team believe not only that kids should learn CPR earlier but that "tempo-reinforcing tools" like music and video games may help children attain goal compression rate to perform effective CPR.
"We were wondering why they need to wait until 12th grade when sixth graders have learned the circulation system and seem mature enough and are interested in learning Hands-Only CPR," said Dr Biswas of the findings.
The results were particularly exciting for Eashan, who hopes to be a doctor. "To go from making a video game to realising he can touch the lives of so many people and save a human life. How important is that?" Dr Biswas said. "It's more important than any science project."
Co-author Beth Zeleke added: "CPR is not a skill you acquire once. We have to learn it throughout our lives as clinicians. You need to practice. Teaching kids at a younger age and continuing that, could help create a lifelong skill."
A 2009 study found that children as young as 9 were able to learn effective CPR skills - and remember them, too. "For at least the 120 days studied, the retention of these skills is good if not better that that of adult learners," the authors wrote in the paper, published in the journal Critical Care.