by Matt Harris
Getting kids to do what their parents want them to can sometimes be a challenge, one that gets bigger depending on how much effort it takes from the children. One might think getting kids to wear glasses would be easy—not so much.

Statistics show that almost 50 per cent of parents say their kids either rarely or never wear sunglasses with 100 per cent Ultra-Violet (UV) protection. Additionally, you have the stats on sunglasses and sunscreen: 82 per cent think sunglasses are important, and 91 per cent think sunscreen should be worn… yet you have this stat—kids are two times more likely to wear sunscreen than they are sunglasses.

The stats can keep piling up, but it’s clear that keeping a child’s eyes safe from UV damage is something parents should be taking seriously.

Tim Schmidt, industry relations and education manager for Transitions Optical Canada, said that there are plenty of factors involved in protecting the eyes of kids—ranging from sunlight and UV exposure to the glare off a computer screen.

“UV protection is hugely important for children because their developing eyes are at a higher risk for damage from exposure to UV radiation,” he said. “Children also typically spend more time outdoors, which means they need the UV and glare protection that sunglasses and photochromic lenses like Transitions lenses provide.”

Nadia Baggetta from Optiq Frames points out that eye exposure can be cumulative and should be considered for kids as much as skin protection.“It’s very important that children protect their eyes from the sun’s UV rays— with the depleted ozone lay, we are subject to more radiation,” he said. “This exposure is cumulative, so it’s important that the eyes are protected at a young age.

As with anything that’s remotely related to style, kids will insist that any eyewear they are sporting match their look, and parents are typically greeted with the ‘It looks cool’ reason for a selection of one item over another. It’s no different when picking out sunglasses/UV protective eyewear, and Baggetta said parents should be willing to roll up their sleeves and do a little digging in making this selection.

“Frames should be relatively light in weight, so as to be more comfortable and thus more likely to be worn,” she said, talking about how to pick glasses out. “Sunglasses should have 100 per cent UV absorption and free of distortion. As far as style goes, for non-prescription sunglasses, a wrap-around style is best as it will block the sun’s rays from the sides for an all-around full coverage, or it should fit close to the brow. All of Optiq’s sunglasses are flexible, which provide the best shape for prescriptions and are very comfortable.”

Schmidt took it a step further, saying optometrists should educate parents on several fronts.

“It helps to know what is considered in style for each age group, and there are many frame brands specifically targeted to younger patients,” he said. Since children will be focused on the frame’s appearance, it’s the eye care professional’s role to think about considerations of proper fit and construction.”

Schmidt pointed out the following things to think about:

• Educate parents about UV: the crystalline lenses of young children before age 10 have not matured to become effective filters of UV radiation, which leaves the retinas unprotected from exposure. Studies also reveal that UV exposure in childhood results in a higher incidence of cataracts and other problems in adulthood.

• Offer package deals: Packages that bundle popular ‘kids-focused’ features for a discounted price is an option that can satisfy parents’ desire to provide the best possible quality at the most reasonable value—options like photochromic Transitions lenses can help parents to feel like they’re getting the most out of their purchase.

• Provide a reason: Explaining why certain lens options are being recommended, especially for improving health or quality of vision, can help parents feel more confident in their decision.

Baggetta said Optiq keeps up-to-date with the latest styles and colours when it comes to eyewear, adding they consider kids in their research and development.

“We want to create frames that suit their personality,” she said. “We have frames just for kids, and many inspired by our adult frames, and they are made for their faces. We currently market children’s frames from recognizable kids brands like CAT and Animal to funky and kid-friendly frames like Minimize Kids. Our frames are suitable for all children, as we have many different styles, sizes and colours. They’re durable and withstand everyday knocking around, so parents don’t have to adjust them often.”

Schmidt said that getting kids used to wearing sunglasses earlier in life is the best way to overcome the obstacle of getting them into the habit. They leave no stone unturned in their research and development, and they make sure they pay plenty of attention to this part of the market.

“We’ve always focused on kids—in addition to providing an excellent product solution, we want to support eye care professionals in ensuring that kids and their parents are aware of the type of eye-and-overall-health issues that are more common among kids,” he said.

“Last summer, we introduced a new Kids Eye brochure which provides helpful information and statistics, and encourages parents to schedule regular eye exams, and to ask about eyewear options to enhance and protect their children’s vision… we also offer consumer-friendly education tools and resources that eyecare professionals can use to educate children, families and teachers about healthy sight and the importance of regular, comprehensive eye exams for children through the ‘Eye Didn’t Know That’ program ( Brochures, colouring pages, posters and lesson plans are some of the fun resources available.”

Baggetta puts everything into context when you boil it all back—kids look up to their parents, and they tend to mimic what they do. “Parents are role models to children, and if their parents are wearing (sunglasses), they tend to want a pair themselves—from cool aviators to big, round sunglasses,” she said. •