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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Vision Correction Options for Children: Glasses and Contact Lenses

I wrote this review while participating in an influencer campaign by Mumsnet on behalf of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

I remember vividly the day that I found out I needed to wear glasses.  I was seven years old and as I returned to school following my opticians appointment I felt so excited that I was going to have my own pair of glasses.

I chose a bright red pair of thick plastic spectacles.  I loved them.  When I wore them to school everyone wanted to try them on.  I couldn't let them of course as they were my "important glasses".  I loved finally being able to "see" things that I never before even realised I could not see- song words on the overhead projector... a clear view of the was marvellous.

Fast forward to secondary school and I was wandering around the hectic corridors, unable to see, with my glasses folded up in my pocket.  I would put them on for lessons, but suddenly felt very self conscious when they were perched on my nose.  I felt so embarrassed when my glasses would fly off my nose in a vicious game of hockey.

I couldn't wait to be allowed, by my parents, to wear contact lenses.  When the time eventually came, I was gifted them as my main Christmas present.  I will not be exaggerating if I describe them as my best present ever and if I tell you that they changed my life.

As soon as I popped in my first pair of "gas permeables" (remember them?), I felt a lot taller (not an easy feat when you're one inch shy of five foot),  I felt more confident in my sight when it came directly from my eyes, rather than an inch or two away.  I could see in every direction and I didn't have to keep pushing my glasses up onto my nose time and time again.

I could run around and see without the fear of them flying off.  It was now possible for me to shoot a goal in netball.  If only I had been able to wear them in Primary School, I might have managed to hit the ball in rounders just once.

My pair of gas permeables changed years ago into Acuvue Soft Contact lenses and I am still so grateful that I wear contact lenses today.

With my weak eyesight, I wasn't surprised when I found out that my eldest daughter needed to wear glasses.  I was so proud of how well my then two year old "baby" took to wearing glasses.  She is now seven years old and loves choosing new Disney Princess glasses each year when her prescription needs updating. Mumsnet and Johnson and Johnson Vision Care found in their research that younger children are more likely to be happy wearing glasses.

Rebecca has never moaned about having to put her glasses on.  However, even at a fairly young age she sometimes struggles to have an active lifestyle whilst wearing glasses.


She has to take them off for leisure activities such as gymnastics and dance.

She feels it is more comfortable to take them off on a bike ride than to wear glasses with a helmet, but I have to insist she wears them and her helmet for safety reasons.

After many runs together, we have also found that she needs her glasses off when running long distance events like "Race for Life".

Mumsnet  found out that parents with their own  vision correction problem are more likely to agree that their child is ready for wearing contact lenses.  I think this is partly due to parents with vision problems realising the benefits of wearing contact lenses over glasses to their overall child's development.  It is also due to a child who has grown up seeing their parent complete the morning and evening (and sometimes inbetween) schedule of cleaning and soaking their contact lenses, being more knowledgeable of the impact and implications of wearing contact lenses.

I know that I will definitely support Rebecca's decision to wear contact lenses in the future (she already assumes she will switch to contacts in her teenage years, presumably because this is what her main contact lenses wearing role model (AKA me) did herself.

The main question for me is what age is acceptable for her to start wearing and caring for contact lenses herself.  I am usually in the 76% of parents surveyed who agree "that whatever the Eye Care Professional recommends is the right choice for their child's vision correction."  However, I can also see that because every child is individual, they would be ready at different ages to wear contact lenses and parents may be most suited to help make this decision along with the child or teenager themself.

For me, like 53% of the parents surveyed, Contact Lens hygiene is a major concern.  I would have to ensure that Rebecca was at an age where she was mature enough to clean her contact lenses adequately every day.  Parents of boys (43%) are more likely than parents of girls (39%) to believe that their child is not responsible enough for contact lenses.  

Studies have shown that children as young as eight years of age are capable of wearing and caring for their contact lenses.  I know that I will not start to consider this option for Rebecca until she is at least eleven years of age and at Comprehensive School level.  Looking ahead, I feel like I would be most comfortable with her beginning to wear contact lenses once she is thirteen years of age and older, but we'll see.

I cannot ignore that studies have shown that children who wear contact lenses feel better about their physical appearance, athletic ability and social acceptance compared with children who wear glasses. These children also report greater comfort with peer perception and higher satisfaction when engaging in social activities. Contact lenses can even help to improve academic confidence, especially among children who are unhappy with their glasses and may not regularly wear them at school or to study.

However  I realise that contact lenses are not for everyone and some people never take to putting them in every day and getting used to the routine.  As a long time contact lens wearer I am aware of the improvement there has been to contact lenses over the years and there is no doubt they are getting easier to put in and care for.

Both glasses and contact lenses are good options for people who need vision correction. We as parents should talk to our eye care professional about what vision correction options are best for our own child.  

To locate an Eye Care Professional in your area, visit the “Find an Optician” tab at  


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