Children may not be as interested as adults are in the fashion aspect of sunglasses. But because kids spend much more time outdoors than most adults do, sunglasses that block 100 percent of the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays are extra important for children.
In fact, because children spend significantly more time outdoors than most adults, some experts say that 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.)
And since 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.
Also, be aware that your child's exposure to UV rays increases at high altitudes, in tropical locales and in highly reflective environments (such as in a snowfield, on the water or on a sandy beach). Protective sunwear is especially important for kids in these situations.
Choosing Sunglass Lens Colors
The level of UV protection sunglasses provide has nothing to do with the color of the lenses.
As long as your optician certifies that the lenses block 100 percent of the sun's UV rays, the choice of color and tint density is a matter of personal preference.
Most sunglass lenses that block the sun's HEV rays are amber or copper in color. By blocking blue light, these lenses also enhance contrast.
Another great option is eyeglasses with photochromic lenses, which are clear indoors and darken automatically in sunlight. This can eliminate the need for a separate pair of sunglasses for kids who need glasses for vision correction.
Photochromic lenses are available in a variety of lens materials and colors, including neutral gray, contrast-enhancing brown, and soothing green. All photochromic lenses block 100 percent UV and provide ample protection from high-energy visible blue light.
Sunglass Styles For Kids
Colorful, 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 colors 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 Get Kids' Sunglasses
Some opticians even specialize 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.
Don't Forget The Accessories
During the selection and fitting of your child's sunglasses, the optician should explain the benefits of the sunglasses and how to care for them.
Often, the optician will include or recommend cleaning cloths, solutions and a protective, hard-shell case to store the sunglasses in when they are not worn.
Sunglass cords (commonly called "retainers") are also a good idea. These can be attached to the temples of the sunglasses so that when removed (or knocked off), the sunglasses can hang from the neck and not get misplaced.
One important factor to remember is that sunglass lenses are impact resistant (as required by the FDA) but they are not shatterproof.
Special frame materials and styles designed for rough activities are available as well for kids' sports eyewear and sunglasses.
Top Five Trends In Kids' Sunglasses
Styling that mimics that of adult sunglasses — cool, sophisticated and trendy.
Modern plastic styles in rich colors (no more bubble-gum colors).
Sports eyewear in scaled-down versions of adult styles.
Clip-on sunglasses for children's prescription eyeglasses. Clip-ons are readily available and reasonably priced. Instead of attaching with metal clips (which can scratch eyeglass lenses), you can now also buy sunglass clip-ons that are magnetically attached.
Brand name appeal. Kids are becoming nearly as brand-conscious as their parents and older siblings. Major eyewear manufacturers have teamed up with Disney, popular cartoons and young celebrities to create eyewear and sunglasses made for and appealing specifically to children.