When I was a baby (or so my mother tells me), I would scream and cry when she popped me in my stroller and walked toward the sun. Turning the stroller around and walking the other direction flipped an off-switch on the crying – and it didn’t take her long to figure out that the sun hurt my eyes, and from there, outfit me with sunglasses.


Turns out, I was ahead of my time.


In a fascinating briefing session with nonprofit trade association The Vision Council last week, we learned about the long-term health consequences – for kids in particular – of neglecting to wear sunglasses outdoors.


You’ve heard of those pesky UVA and UVB rays, which give us painful sunburns every summer? Even while wearing SPF 90 sunscreen? (Okay, maybe that’s just me.) Those same rays are very harmful to our eyes, and according to optometrist Dr. Dora Adamopoulos, children have immature lenses that make them especially susceptible to the effects. Just as we wear sunscreen to protect our skin, sunglasses are a crucial tool for protecting our eyes, even on cloudy days.


Keep your kids’ eyes, and your own, safe and sound behind a pair of UV-protective sunglasses! Make sure you buy from a reputable retailer (a drugstore, eyewear store, anywhere but popup street vendors or online auction sites), and look for a sticker that says “UV 380.” In addition to reliability, here are three other things to consider when you purchase sunglasses:


1) Comfort! You won’t wear your sunglasses if they don’t feel right.


2) Lifestyle. What will you be doing when you wear your sunglasses? If you spend a lot of time at the pool or beach, maybe polarized lenses (which reduce glare) are best for you. If you play a lot of sports, look for impact-resistant lenses.


3) Design and fit. You want to look good in your sunglasses. If you feel self-conscious wearing them, they’ll stay in your purse, where they won’t do your eyes any good.


But what about your kids?  It’s never too early to start encouraging them to wear sunglasses, as my mother proved when she bought me a pair at the ripe old age of 10 months. You can use the checklist of reliability, comfort, lifestyle and design/fit when you’re choosing sunglasses for your kids, too. If you still have trouble getting them to keep their sunglasses on, take this advice from Jamie Shyer, a chairman to The Vision Council and father of two: “As parents, we always have to be creative. If your kids like stickers, you might try letting them put two to three stickers on glasses to give them some independence. I recommend limiting sticker use to the frames so that you don’t cover any lines of sight.”


Jamie also suggested outfitting your child’s favorite stuffed animals with sunglasses and setting a good example yourself by wearing your sunglasses every time you have the opportunity. It will be good for your eyes and reinforce sunwise behavior in your kids – a win for everyone!