Kids and Sunglasses

little girls in sunglasses at the pool
As an adult, you probably think about wearing sunglasses for fashion reasons.  But when it comes to children, sunglasses are important for eye safety and protection. Up to 80% of UV damage occurs under the age of 18, so it’s crucial that kids protect their eyes.

Learn more about why it’s important for your child to wear sunglasses, how to buy them for your child, and helpful tips for keeping those sunglasses on your kids while they are active outdoors.

Why Do Kids Need to Wear Sunglasses?

The greatest amount of UV damage to the eye occurs during the first 18 years of life, which makes it extremely important for children to wear sunglasses.

Too much sun exposure at an early age contributes to damage that can turn into cataracts and macular degeneration when children get older. Sunglasses also offer protection for the delicate skin around your child’s eyes and eyelids. The Skin Cancer Foundation instructs parents to have children over 6 months wear sunglasses. Babies under 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight.

According to Prevent Blindness America, children’s sunglasses should block 99 to 100 percent of both types of untraviolet rays: UVA and UVB. Children typically spend more time outdoors, especially when the sun is brightest, which also makes them more susceptible to damage from UV rays.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • UVA is lower-energy ultraviolet radiation that can penetrate skin and eyes more deeply. Because UVA rays can penetrate the eye, they have been shown to cause cataracts and macular degeneration.
  • UVB is high-energy ultraviolet radiation that causes your skin to burn. The cornea is designed to block most of the UVB rays from the eye but overexposure can cause a “sunburn” of the cornea called photokeratitis.  This is a serious and painful condition that can cause temporary vision loss most commonly called “snow blindness.”
  • Children’s sunglasses that offer the correct amount of protection will advertise that they block UV rays.  But make sure the label says that it blocks 99-100 percent of these rays. In fact, glasses without the proper amount of protection can actually do more harm by dilating the eyes and letting in more of those damaging rays.

When Do Kids Need to Wear Sunglasses?

It’s important to note that although children spend far more time outdoors than adults, they are far less likely to wear protective sunglasses. It’s crucial for parents to remember to enforce wearing sunglasses as a habit because over 80 percent of all eye damage occurs under the age of 18. Just as you would have your child wear sunscreen to go play outside all afternoon, you should get into the habit of having them wear their sunglasses too. Also, remember that UV rays can penetrates clouds. Even on an overcast or cloudy day your children should be protecting their eyesight. Here are some situations in which it’s important to remember sunglasses for your child:

  • While playing outside in any season.  The sun shines bright all year round and can be especially harmful during the winter months when the sun reflects off of white snow.
  • Anytime your child will be around water, whether it be the pool, beach, or lake. Like snow, the sun reflects off of the surface of the water and can create a harsh glare.
  • While your child goes to an amusement park or sporting event. Spending extended hours in an area with little shade requires the protection of sunglasses.
  • Riding in the car. You wouldn’t think about driving around without sunglasses on when the sun was shining brightly and glaring off other cars, so don’t forget to shade your child’s eyes too.  Even if they may be avoiding UV damage while in the car, sun headaches aren’t fun for anyone.

Remember this rule of thumb: If you are lathering sunscreen on your child, it’s probably sunglasses weather.

Choosing Safe Sunglasses for Kids

Kids can be pretty rough and careless when they’re at play. Sunglasses can get smashed, crushed, stepped on or cracked. Broken sunglasses have sharp edges that could potentially cause an eye or face injury. Finding sunglasses that offer 100 percent UV protection, while being a safe and smart choice for an active child, is important. But what do you look for?

100% UV Protection

Prevent Blindness America says children’s sunglasses should block 99 to 100 percent of ultraviolet rays, both UVA and UVB. A sticker should indicate how much protection the sunglasses offer.

Lenses

Polycarbonate lenses are scratch and impact resistant, so they can withstand a good beating. Glass lenses, if broken, can be sharp and dangerous, so stay away from those.

Frames

The frames should be large enough to cover the eyes and fit closely to the face to protect from sunlight peaking in. The frames should be more flexible to avoid breakage. A spring hinged temple is ideal as it will flex and then spring back into place rather than snapping under pressure. The frame should also be lightweight so that they’re not noticeable or cumbersome while your child is at play.

Grip

Sunglasses with a rubber grip on either the bridge of the nose, the temples, or the earpieces will keep them in place and less likely to fall and be damaged. Also, make sure that your child’s sunglasses have the proper fit. If they’re too large or too small they are more likely to fall off your child’s face.

Band

Some children’s sunglasses come with an elastic or velcro band that attaches the sunglasses to your child’s head. Not only will this prevent the sunglasses from slipping or falling off, they keep them securely in place as the child plays.

Sunglasses are supposed to be just as fun as they are protective, so the good thing is there are lots of options out there. Just remember these key components when looking for safe sunglasses.

Tips for Getting Kids to Wear Sunglasses

Now that you understand the importance of having your child wear sunglasses for protection, how do you get them to wear them, and keep them on? We’ve got some great suggestions:

Sunglasses come in all shapes and sizes now, so there will always be a great selection for your child to find a favorite pair.  Let your child have fun choosing a pair that they will enjoy wearing and you’ll have less of a battle when it comes to keeping them on during outdoor play.

Sunglasses come with velcro straps, designed to keep them in place on infants and toddlers.  This will aid in protecting your little one’s eyes and keep them from pulling the sunglasses of their face.

Having your child start wearing sunglasses at an early age will help them form good eye health habits and adjust to always wearing them when it’s sunny

Make wearing sunglasses a requirement for your child to play outside, just like you require them to wear sunscreen before they go out the door.  After all, both forms of protection go hand in hand.

Set a good example. Show your kids the importance of protecting their eyes by wearing sunglasses yourself. If mommy and daddy are wearing sunglasses, chances are that your kiddos will want to follow suit and wear their shades too.

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