Normalising Sunglasses at School – The Role of Peers in Your Kids’ Eye Health
As Opthalmologists, we have a problem.
Wearing sunglasses at school is not considered normal yet.
And it’s not just a lack of sunglasses at school – it’s sunglasses during sport, sunglasses at the beach or pool, sunglasses out walking the dog. We want to see all children wearing sunglasses outdoors at all times, and we want this to be as common as wearing sunscreen and a hat.
Why are we not seeing sunglasses on our kids every time they are outside?
A few reasons:
1. It’s not yet common knowledge that the sun can cause frightening damage to the eyes, just as it can to skin. (Check out our Slip Slop Slap Slide campaign.)
2. Adults are often under the mistaken impression that sunglasses are only useful to reduce glare when your eyes get older, and not necessary for children. (Wrong – they play a critical role in protecting eyes from infancy.)
3. Kids don’t want to be the only one wearing sunglasses!
Let’s talk about that last point for a minute.
We Need To Make It Normal To Wear Sunglasses At School
Kids are highly sensitive to peer pressure. They need to fit in, to look the same, do the same things and wear the same clothes as their friends. To a child, belonging is akin to survival.
So if your child is the only one wearing sunglasses at school or on the sports field, how are they going to feel?
Luke’s Story: I’d Rather Have Eye Cancer Than Wear Sunglasses (Case Study)
Luke (not his real name) is a real 13-year-old boy who was brought into our clinic after suffering from a red sore eye for four weeks. Luke is a wicket keeper who plays cricket three times per week.
He was given drops and creams to try and help with the discomfort to his eyes. (The discomfort experienced in serious eye damage is often mistaken for conjunctivitis or other temporary conditions.) As all of the treatments had failed, he was referred to us for a specialist opinion.
Luke wears a hat while playing cricket as it’s is a required part of the uniform. He also diligently applies sunblock because he is often standing in full sunlight for hours at a time.
However, he and his mother were unaware of either a need to protect the eyes, or what sort of sunglasses were required.
On presentation, it became clear that his symptoms were arising from a tumour growing on his eye. The tumour was inflamed and thickened. The image below shows the alarming evidence of this elevated thickened tumour.
We made sure that Luke and his mother were aware of the urgent need for quality, protective sunglasses for Luke to wear playing cricket, at school and outdoors at all time.
Luke was very pensive during the discussion about sunglasses.
How can I be the only kid wearing sunglasses? he asked.
Being singled out as different, even in this tiny way, was clearly weighing heavily on his mind.
We explained to Luke the consequences he’d see if the eye tumor continued to grow – there would be a need for surgical removal and possible consequences to his vision.
And we reminded him that just as he needs to wear the hat and sunblock, equally he needs to protect his eyes.
Luke understood. But here’s the heartbreaking thing he said to us in reply:
It’s ok for me to wear a hat and sunscreen because all of us on the team do that. But if I have to wear sunglasses on the field, I’d be the only one.
I’d rather let the cancer grow and get it cut off my eye than be the only kid on the team who has to wear sunglasses.
Help Us Normalise Sunglasses At School, On The Sports Field and Outdoors At All Times
You can see how important it is for a child to feel like they are just like their peers. If you had to wear braces on your teeth or if you had an unusual facial feature when you were younger, you’ll understand the devastating impact of the feeling of not fitting in amongst your friends.
That’s why we need sunglasses in school uniform stores and as part of sports team uniforms, just like hats are often part of the uniform and children regularly re-apply sunscreen throughout the day at school. If everyone is wearing sunglasses, there is no fear of ridicule and we are protecting the vulnerable eyes of our little humans.
Sunblock does not make you look cool, but protects your skin. School hats and sports caps are not a fashion statement, they are a necessity. Join us in spreading this important message to schools, parents and teachers. Contact your school today and send them a link to this article. Urge them to make sunglasses compulsory at your school.
It’s time we took eye health seriously.
Ready to get serious about eye health? Get your Beamers here today.
Would you like to stock Beamers sunglasses at your school? Contact us and ask about making protective sunglasses part of your school uniform.