How to Keep Children Sun-Safe

Our Sun Safety Tips for the Summer and All Year Long

With summer under way, children will spend more time outdoors, in backyards and at parks, summer camps, beaches and other vacation destinations. So, it is important to remember that exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is strongly linked to all forms of skin cancer. Luckily, with good sun safety habits including proper clothing and sunscreen, children can enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities without risking their health. 

“By teaching your children to incorporate sun protection into their daily routine, you’ll significantly lower their risk of developing skin cancer as an adult,” says Perry Robins, MD, President of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “In fact, one or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing potentially deadly melanomas later in life.”

Help children stay safe in the sun with the following tips from The Skin Cancer Foundation:

  • Seek the Shade: Remind kids to play in shaded areas in order to limit UV exposure. Check with camps to see if there are adequate places for campers to seek shade during outdoor activities taking place between 10 AM and 4 PM, when UV rays are most intense.
  • Avoid Tanning: Tweens and teens may be tempted to “lay out” or visit tanning salons. But there is no such thing as a safe, healthy or protective tan, because tanning itself is caused by DNA damage to the skin. Just four visits to a tanning salon per year can increase melanoma risk by 11 percent. On average, indoor tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.
  • Cover up with Clothing: Consider dressing them in swim shirts or rash guards while in the water at the pool or beach. Protect the face, neck and eyes with broad-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Use Sunscreen: For everyday use, look for broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. If your child will be spending extended time outdoors, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your child’s entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Assist children in reapplying sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or playing sports, because water and sweat wash sunscreen away. If your children apply their own sunscreen, remind them to cover easy-to-miss spots, such as the backs of ears and neck, as well as the tops of feet and hands.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
  • Practice What You Preach: Incorporate these tips into your own lifestyle. You’ll not only set a good example, but you’ll reduce your risk of skin cancer, sun damage and skin aging.

More detailed suggestions and recommendations are available in the 2012 Skin Cancer Foundation Journal article, “Repelling the Rays When Kids Play."

Additionally, The Skin Cancer Foundation recently debuted Sun Smart U, an interactive education program that teaches students in grades six through twelve how to make sun-safe choices that are vital in preventing skin cancer. The program highlights the importance of following a proper sun protection regimen and the dangers of tanning through the real-life story of a young woman with Stage III melanoma. Download the free interactive lesson plan.