Kids and Contacts: A Parent's Guide

Much is expected of today's teens and pre-teens. Getting good grades, excelling in sports, playing a musical instrument and working part-time are all pressures they experience. For their busy lifestyles, contact lenses may be the perfect fit. What parents may not know is that today's contact lenses are more comfortable and easier to care for than those of a decade ago. Plus, there are more types of contacts, from disposables to Toric (designed especially for people with astigmatism), from which to choose. In other words, there are lenses to fit your child's individual needs. When can my child begin wearing contact lenses?
When to start depends on a number of factors, including maturity and coordination. A three-year study conducted by the Indiana University School of Optometry found children ages 11-13 able to handle contacts well and understand the use of their care systems to maintain clean, comfortable lenses. When to begin contact lens wear can only be determined in conjunction with your child's eye care practitioner. (Will Young Children Comply and Follow Instructions to Successfully Wear Soft Contact Lenses?" by P.S. Soni, D.G. Horner, L. Jimenenz, J. Ross, J. Rounds; CLAO Journal, April 1995.) What are the advantages of contact lenses over eyeglasses?
Glasses can get in the way, especially in sports, cheerleading, dance or other exercise activities. Not contact lenses. Nor are there rims to interfere with side, or peripheral, vision. Contact lenses don't steam up or slide down the nose. And they eliminate the annoying pressure glasses place on the ears.
Fiction or fact? Truths about contact lenses

FICTION: Kids are not "mature enough" for contacts.
FACT: Most eye care professionals agree that by age 13, even as early as age 11, most eyes are developed enough for contact lenses. An eye exam will confirm whether contacts can be worn by your child.
FICTION: Contacts fall out a lot.
FACT: They fell out more often when the only ones were hard lenses. Soft lenses conform to the shape of the eye, are larger in diameter and are tucked under the eyelids, so they usually don't move out of place or fall out. Plus, they're usually more stable than glasses, especially for sports.
FICTION: Contact lenses are expensive.
FACT: The price of contact lenses is comparable to that of an average pair of eyeglasses.
FICTION: Contact lenses are hard to care for.
FACT: Not at all. Today's lens care systems are quick and easy to use. Contacts can be ready to wear in just five minutes. Daily soft lenses are extremely easy to use and wear - simply throw them away every day and no messy solutions.
FICTION: Contact lenses are not safe to wear for sports.
FACT: Except for water sports, contacts are very safe. They can't be broken or knocked off the face and they provide unobstructed peripheral vision.

The next step is to make an appointment for your teen or pre-teen with an eye care professional who can assess his or her ability to wear contacts. If the practitioner gives a thumbs-up, then let your child give contacts a try. Wearing them is the best way to see if contacts are the right choice.