Whilst it seems that most eyesight conditions arise in our teenage years and onwards, it's often forgotten that many children face the struggle of a decline in vision, with one in five children from five to fifteen requiring vision correction.
However, most children are never given the option of wearing contact lenses. Switching to contact lenses is shown to have an overwhelmingly positive impact on a child's self-confidence and mental wellbeing. At Vision Direct, we believe in helping you to make the right choice for your child's vision.
When is the right age for contact lenses?
The vast majority of children are prescribed glasses for their vision correction. This is primarily due to the unique challenges contacts present to adults and children alike. Compared to glasses, contact lenses require a greater degree of routine care so they remain safe for use. It can be difficult for young people to have the maturity to make sure they are looking after their contacts by cleaning and storing them correctly every night.
However, studies have shown that even children as young as eight years old are just as capable as teenagers at taking on sole responsibility for their contact lenses. In fact, with correct instructions, the vast majority of children are just as quick as adults in learning how to put in and take out contact lenses.
Parenting blogger Emma Reed recalls her school memories by saying: "I wore contact lenses from the age of 15 but I'd been begging my Mum for them for much longer because [wearing] glasses at secondary school was tough.
Once I had them I felt so much more confident, I could happily do sport without having to worry about breaking my glasses, I came out of my shell".
Of course, you can't expect a child to instantly have the responsibility to look after their contacts. But, with enthusiastic parents to initially support, oversee and keep them motivated, there is no reason why any child couldn't develop the discipline to carry out this task.
The benefits of contacts
Glasses may seem the easier option for your child's vision correction. Although less maintenance may appear to be a huge benefit, it's important not to underestimate the impact that wearing contact lenses has on your child's sense of self-confidence and social status.
Parenting and lifestyle blogger Sarah Hurst, says: "I was so self-conscious about my glasses and I found it really impacted on my quality of life as I couldn't see around the lens, so sport was tricky and I couldn't swim".
Good vision is essential for getting the most out of school, so the right vision correction is essential for your child's development.
Since Harry Potter, Youtube and the rise of geek culture, wearing glasses as a child or adolescent carries much less stigma than it has in the past. For many children and teenagers, wearing glasses is a conscious decision that can help them feel more like their adult role models.
However, research shows that many children enjoy a self-confidence boost after switching to contact lenses. A 2009 study followed 484 children between the ages of three and twelves for three years, during which they were assigned either glasses or contact lenses. Researchers routinely asked the children how they felt they were doing in many aspects of school life. The results showed that children with contact lenses reported significantly higher levels of satisfaction with their appearance, sporting performance, schoolwork and social status.
For children and teens, sports and physical activities are an essential part of forming relationships and building confidence. Framed glasses can restrict your vision and can make it harder to engage fully with the activity at hand. A 2007 study showed how children and teens were dramatically happier with their performance in physical activities after switching to contacts.
As a mum, blogger and teacher, Emma Bradley says: "I think once they are a teenager, parents need to listen to their child and if they feel contact lenses would suit them it's fine. I am all about empowering teenagers, so if it works for them that's good for me".
You may be concerned that your child is not mature enough to commit to cleaning and storing the contact lenses every night.
As family lifestyle blogger Kelly-Ann Coombes says: "I got my first set of contacts at eleven years old and I've been wearing them nineteen years now. My niece needs glasses and she's just ten and has been asking to wear lenses. Personally, I don't think there's a problem if they are old enough to look after their lenses properly, they should be allowed to wear them".
Of course, you know your child best, but routine and responsibility have been shown to help young people to gain a sense of confidence and self-reliance.
Today, disposable contacts also make the routine easier to stick to, as suggested by lifestyle blogger Charlie Hooson Sykes, who says: "It's a tricky one because some kids will be more than happy to manage the cleaning etc early on, and others won't. I don't think there should be any barrier to children getting them early on, especially now disposables are an easy option".
The correct choice for your children
Vision Direct's Chief Operating Officer and Optometrist, Brendan O'Brien, says "At Vision Direct, we want to make sure you make the right vision correction choices for your child. The reason children lose self-confidence when they're told they 'need glasses' (often as a simplistic explanation of their refractive error) isn't due to not accepting their declining vision, but rather because it presents a situation where they feel they have no options. By highlighting how viable contact lenses can be for children, we hope that they can feel more empowered when it comes to their corrective solution".
If you're interested in exploring the possibility of contact lenses for your child, explore the links below and consider booking an assessment with your local optician.