Children may not be interested in the fashion aspect of sunglasses, but given that kids spend much more time outdoors than most adults, sunglasses that block 100 percent of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays are an important consideration.
In fact, according to some experts, up to half of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV radiation can occur by age 18. (Other research cited by The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests the amount of lifetime exposure to UV radiation sustained by age 18 is less than 25 percent.)
Given that excessive lifetime exposure to UV radiation has been linked to the development of cataracts and other eye problems, it’s never too early for kids to begin wearing good quality sunglasses outdoors.
UV rays aren’t the only potential danger from sunlight. Recently, researchers have suggested that long-term exposure to high-energy visible (HEV) light rays, also called “blue light,” may also cause eye damage over time. In particular, some believe a high lifetime exposure to HEV light may contribute to the development of macular degeneration later in life.
Children’s eyes are more susceptible to UV and HEV radiation than adult eyes because the lens inside a child’s eye is less capable of filtering these high-energy rays. This is especially true for young children, so it’s wise for kids to start wearing protective sunglasses outdoors as early in life as possible.
It is also important to consider that your child’s exposure to UV rays increases at high altitudes, in tropical regions and in highly reflective environments (such as in a snowfield, on the water or on a sandy beach). Protective sun wear is especially important for kids in these situations.
Choosing sunglass lens colours
The level of UV protection that sunglasses provide is not related to the colour of the lenses.
As long as your optician certifies that the lenses block 100 percent of the sun’s UV rays, the choice of colour and tint density is a matter of personal preference.
Most sunglass lenses that block the sun’s HEV rays are amber or copper in colour. By blocking blue light, these lenses also enhance contrast, a positive feature for outdoor sports and cycling.
Sunglass styles for children
Colourful, adolescent frame styles are still available, but sunglass companies have found a niche in appealing to children’s desire to look like their parents or older siblings.
Oval, round, rectangular, cat-eye and geometric shapes are all popular in cool, sophisticated colours like green, blue, tortoise and black. Metal frames are very popular, but so are plastic sunglass frames that look like scaled-down versions of trendy adult styles. Also, sporty styles for kids like wraparounds are available in miniature adult editions.
Where to buy kids’ sunglasses
The best places to find kids’ sunglasses or obtain advice regarding them, are sunglass specialty stores like your local optician or optical shop.
Some opticians even specialise in children’s sunglasses and eyeglasses and have dedicated areas just for kids to play and shop for their frames.
Wherever you go, look for a good selection of sunglass frames scaled specifically for a child’s facial dimensions and a professional staff experienced in fitting children’s eyewear.