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Reaching teens with sun protection message isn't easy

Reaching teens with sun protection message isn't easy, but don't give up

Unfortunately, many teens prefer tanned skin, and this is a stronger behavior inducement than warnings about the dangers of skin cancer.

As a parent, you know that telling your teenage children to protect themselves from UVR is like telling them not to drink soda pop.  Most teenagers will agree that too much sugar and caffeine is bad for you and then continue to drink it anyway.

Grit your teeth and don’t give up.

You can continue to encourage your teenage children to protect themselves from UVR in many ways:

  • Have ongoing discussions about the long-term effect of the sun and the risks of using tanning beds
  • Occasionally give examples of someone you know who has aged skin or skin cancer
  • Make sure your teenager sees you using sun protection methods every day
  • Keep sunscreen in their bathroom next to the toothpaste to encourage daily use
  • Let teens choose their own sun protective hats or clothing
  • Show teenagers how to choose the most protective sun glasses
  • Encourage them to talk to their friends about sun protection
  • Take a leadership role in their school to introduce sun protection education

This last is important. Your actions will communicate how critically you regard sun protection. Practice it daily. They’ll notice. Then get involved. Talk to your high school teachers and parent organizations.  High schools have several different areas where methods of sun protection can easily be taught.  The most obvious is through sports programs. Encourage coaches to take the lead by having team players follow the five easy to remember steps in SunAWARE.

Health classes also offer opportunities to discuss some of the problems associated with exposure to UVR.   Check with the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation for some ideas on how to make an impact in these classes.

Play Safe in the Sun, a grassroots initiative of the Women’s Dermatologic Society, offers free materials for developing your own sun protection program in your office or community.

Yesterday we posted a video describing Don’t Fry Day, the Friday before Memorial Day, which urges families to practice safe sun habits during the summer and beyond.  Free resources supporting Don’t Fry Day are mentioned in the video.

The message about sun protection – like the messages about smoking or drinking – must come from many different sources, with parents in the lead.

Teens may be a difficult audience, but the effort is worth it.

Be safe. Be SunAWARE. And, educate your family and community.

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