Do Sunglasses Hurt Eye Development of Young Children?

Are sunglasses bad for the development of young childrens’ eyes? The answer is a bit complicated, actually. While sunglasses greatly reduce the risks of ocular cancer and can prevent damage to parts of the eye, there is another concern that comes with wearing sunglasses: vitamin D deficiency. While no conclusive answer has been reached, studies have expressed concerns about vitamin D levels in young children, infants especially. The sun is the main way we get vitamin D, so limiting exposure for small, developing people might be a concern.

That being said, eye damage from sun exposure can occur at any age. With vitamin D deficiency concerns, the answer is simply to supply more artificial vitamins. When it comes to risks of ocular damage and eventually possible cancer, there is no easy fix. Sunglasses may not risk the eye development of young children specifically, but regardless of the other concerns about sunglasses, wearing sunglasses is a better option.

Encouraging Children to Wear Sunglasses

Unfortunately, only 58% of parents encourage their children to wear sunglasses. Children, younger children especially, cannot understand how essential sunglasses are to protecting their eye health. Many children may not like the visual effect that sunglasses have on their vision and might even reject sunglasses for this reason. 

It is essential that parents encourage their children to wear sunglasses. Depending on the child’s age, it might be effective to:

  • Explain in simple terms the importance of keeping the eyes healthy
  • Encourage the child to pick out their own choice of sunglasses, so they can have something that looks “cool” or “cute”
  • Point out how someone they look up to wears sunglasses too, and how cool it looks on them
  • Give them option to choose “fun-colored” lenses, showing them how cool orange, blue, or red lenses are to look through, and give them the option to pick one

There’s a chance that your child may never be interested in the idea of wearing sunglasses. Either way, it’s important to always encourage it as a parent, as it is so essential to their eye health whether they like it or not. 

Risks of Not Wearing Sunglasses Outside

Regardless of your age, there are so many reasons why eye protection is essential. Whether you’re taking a walk through your neighborhood or a park, walking to get to work or school, or visiting the pool or beach, even short term exposure adds up over time. Notably, failing to wear sunglasses around water can do extra damage, as your eyes are getting the direct sunlight from the sky as well as the light reflecting off of the water. A similar effect occurs in very snowy locations. 

There are many risks that come with not wearing sunglasses. At a basic level, ultraviolet light can damage the cornea, retina, and eye lenses. While this sounds simple enough, since the body is fairly good at repairing itself, it can have dire consequences.

Much like with sunburns on the skin, studies indicate that exposure of certain sections of the eye may cause ocular cancer, though this is not conclusive yet. Additionally, studies indicate that, over time, exposure to UV light can accelerate the aging process in the eyes. This means that eyes lose the ability to see sharply over time quicker than if eyes were exposed to UV radiation less often throughout life.

There are more potential issues beyond these, but it is clear that there are some dire consequences resulting from not taking care of your eyes in the sunlight. 

Wear the Correct Type of Sunglasses

Wearing cheap, poorly designed sunglasses can render your vision less effective. While this may just mean not seeing the beach as clearly, it can also disturb your ability to distinguish traffic light colors, for instance. Having correctly colored sunglasses is also vital to see other important events, such as warning lights, reflective materials, or weather changes.

Choosing quality sunglasses also gives you options for different lens colors, so you can choose an appropriate shade for the activities you typically engage in. Keep in mind that this applies to childrens’ sunglasses as well.

Conclusion: Eye Development of Young Children

UV exposure is harmful to the eyes as well as the skin. While vitamin deficiency has a chance to be an issue in childrens’ use of sunglasses, reducing the risk of other damage is much more important. Make sure to wear sunglasses during outdoor activities such as hiking, sports, skiing, swimming, boating, going for walks, and any activity with prolonged sun exposure. Don’t forget to pack the sunscreen, too!

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