Thick, over-sized eyeglass frames may be all the rage in Hollywood, but most folks have yet to climb on the bandwagon, Harry Potter notwithstanding. In fact, contact lenses remain the eyewear of choice of some 32 million Americans—10% of whom are children.
The questions about kids and contacts keep coming up, though—everything from age and maturity to readiness and need.
All those factors come into play, of course, but so does motivation, as contacts take a bit of effort and getting used to. Recalls Mrs. L. whose daughter attends Arcola Intermediate School in Montgomery County: “She hit seventh grade and the gawk at the same time and said her glasses made her look like a nerd—and her nose even bigger. And, of course, for good measure she threw in that everyone else had them. God, how she wanted them, and I eventually gave in . . .”
Like many adults, a number of lens-wearing kids opt out of eyeglasses for appearance’s sake, but there are a number of other less obvious benefits, too. Says the University of Iowa’s Christine Sindt, O.D.: “Children’s vision is constantly developing, and contacts give a more ‘real’ or less distorted view of the world. Contact lenses can balance the image from both eyes, and correct any irregularities or astigmatism of the eye. Some studies have also shown that progression of nearsightedness can be lessened by contact lens use. Contacts are an excellent option for the budding athlete, as well.”
And that’s all well and good, but are they right for your child? Depends. Being motivated—really wanting them—matters, but so does the ability and willingness to take responsibility for their proper use and care. For that reason, age factors in. The very young often need a parent to clean the contacts—even insert and remove them. Are you ready for that? What’s the rush?
According to an American Optometric Association study, about 50% of the surveyed optometrists said the ideal age for kids is between 10 and 12; a lot fewer went with younger than ten.
And the organization found that parents are pretty much in agreement with 29% investing in contacts when their children were between ten and eleven; 30.5% waiting until they were 12 or 13. Only 10% said ten or younger.
It’s all up to you, but if you agree to forge ahead, make sure your child . . .
- Understands how to care for the contacts;
- Knows there’s no such thing as swapping contacts with friends;
- Remembers to either remove the lenses or wear swim goggles before going for a swim;
- Removes them before engaging in sports or wears sports goggles;
- Carries a case filled with cleanser in case removal is necessary.
Bottom line: contacts can allay hurt feelings, give a boost to self-esteem, improve vision, and do away with broken or lost eyeglasses altogether. No wonder so many kids are asking for them.