An Alarming Number of Parents Think Sun Tans Are Healthy For Kids

New research released by the Met Office and National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is highlighting the fact that an alarming number of parents have a "worryingly relaxed attitude" when it comes to their children's sun care. The study's results suggest that there's still a lack of knowledge among parents when it comes to preventing sunburns and practicing safe sun as a family, as over a third of parents actually stated they believe a suntan is a "sign of good health."

The study looked at 1,000 parents with children 11 and under and revealed that not only do 15 percent of those parents not know that UV rays can still affect your skin on a cool or cloudy day, but seven percent weren't even aware that UV rays are what make the skin burn (let alone that burns have a strong link to skin cancer later in life). Among the other surprising statistics, one in 14 parents admitted they've never applied sunscreen to their children's skin before, one in five parents said they wait until their child starts to visibly burn before applying any sunscreen, a quarter of parents shared they've encouraged their child to sunbathe ("despite suntans being a sign of the skin being damaged by UV rays"), and 10 percent of parents have told their children to take off their top in the sun to avoid tan lines.

Another interesting finding that came out of the study was that 23 percent of parents expect their child to apply their own sunscreen by the time they hit age 8. "As a sun-savvy mum, the findings are really worrying," said Clare Nasir, Met Office presenter and meteorologist. "Young children can't be expected to apply their own sunscreen — they are unlikely to do it thoroughly, or forgo it completely. Protecting against skin cancer isn't something parents should leave to chance."

The study also highlights the fact that UV rays are strongest in the Summer months (May to September in the northern hemisphere), which is when the risk of sun damage and burns is highest and practicing safe sun is of the utmost importance.

"It's important that parents take extra care to protect their babies and children," said Nigel Acheson, NHS England South Region medical director. "Their skin is much more sensitive than adult skin, and damage caused by repeated exposure to UV could lead to skin cancer developing in later life. If the . . . UV forecast is moderate or high, children aged under 6 months should spend time in the shade and out of direct sunlight — particularly from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. We should all remember to cover up with suitable clothing and wear sunscreen with a good UV-A protection."

If your kids are going to be in the sun a lot this Summer, be sure to check out our list of the safest sunscreens for kids and babies and our tips for reading a sunscreen label to ensure you're keeping your kiddos as sun safe as possible. However, keeping kids out of the sun whenever possible, especially during midday when the sun is at its strongest, is always the best way to ensure there's no risk of sunburns.