In fact, kids are even more sensitive to ultraviolet rays than adults are. Until around age 10, the lens of a child’s eye is clear, allowing greater solar penetration and thus greater UVR-induced ocular changes. Retinal exposure to UVR is associated with cataracts and macular degeneration. UVR damage builds up over time, so the sooner you start providing better protection for your children’s eyes, the more you can reduce their risk of eye problems in the future.
It’s not just about retinal exposure though, with the skin around our eyelids and eyes being more delicate and vulnerable than anywhere else, particularly in children. Sunglasses help protect this delicate skin, too.
When should children start wearing sunglasses?
There’s no such thing as too young. The younger they are, the more sensitive your baby’s eyes are. It’s never too early for children to wear sunglasses; the difficulty is keeping them on their faces! This is where an elasticated band is a good idea. You’ll get a few years out of your children’s sunglasses too – baby sunglasses for the 0-2 age group and then kids sunglasses from the 3-8+ age group. After that they can wear teen or small adult sunnies.
What are the Australian standards for sunglasses?
All sunglasses sold in Australia must be tested against the Australian and New Zealand standard, AS/NZS 1067. Make sure that what you’re buying is labelled as sunglasses and not fashion spectacles. Sunglasses must be labelled as compliant with the Australian standards and include a lens category number.
Lenses are categorised according to the level of UV protection and sun glare reduction. Look for a lens category of at least 2 or preferably 3. You need 100% UVA and UVB protection or UV 400 lenses.
What else should you look for when you’re buying children’s sunglasses?
- Products made from BPA-free plastic is best for children. We’ve removed it from their drink bottles and lunch boxes, let’s not forget their sunglasses too.
- Shatter-resistant lenses will come in handy, as will durable, flexible frames to prevent breakage. Remember, they’re probably going to go on and come off a million times a day!
- Polarised lenses usually cost a bit more but they are great at reducing glare. They’re mostly useful if you spend much of your time outdoors or on the water, and they’re also my personal preference. Colours are more vivid – I just think the world looks brighter when viewed through polarised lenses!
Remember – your child is the one that has to wear their sunglasses, and ideally like them, too. If they’re old enough, let them choose which ones they prefer, or narrow down their choices first to some that meet your criteria. If your children protest to wearing sunglasses or find them annoying, be a role model by wearing them yourself.
A reminder about the Cancer Council’s sun smart campaign
It’s been part of our programming since the 80’s, the slip, slop, slap routine when heading outdoors into the harsh Australian sun. But you may have forgotten the modifications that have since been added to the campaign. In New Zealand it was Slip, slop, slap and wrap, with the wrap being to wrap on a pair of wrap around sunglasses. In Australia, the extended version became Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide. Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek some shade, and slide on a pair of sunglasses.
Of the roughly 80% of parents who wear sunglasses themselves, the majority of those health conscious parents did not make their children wear sunglasses. Whether that’s because they’re viewed simply as a fashion statement, whether it’s another thing for the kids to lose in the playground, or whether we never did master the extended version of the sun safe message, it’s time to change your thinking on sunglasses for children. Make it part of your routine this summer.
Do you have sunglasses for your children? What’s your sunsmart routine for your family? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Image: Roshambo Sunglasses