Making sure children slip, slop, slap before going outside to play is a vital task for any parent. The next step, a Melbourne mum fighting melanoma says, is to encourage kids to make reapplying sunscreen a part of their normal school day.
Belinda Karlos was diagnosed with melanoma in 2012, and as a mum to 10-year-old Ebony she is passionate about improving sunscreen use for children.
“Schools are doing what they can to be sun smart, but as parents, we can play a bigger role by teaching our kids why we wear sunscreen and how to apply it,” Belinda says.
“Teaching your kids the habit of slopping on sunscreen is as important as making sure they know to brush their teeth, wear a helmet while cycling or put on a seatbelt when they get in the car.”
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, and melanoma is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among adolescents and young adults (making up one quarter of all cancers among Australians aged 15-29.) Two in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70.
“Teaching your kids the habit of slopping on sunscreen is as important as making sure they know to brush their teeth.”
By encouraging children to reapply sunscreen before they go outside to play at lunchtime, parents and teachers can take a small but important step in creating a healthier future.
“The bottom line is that skin cancer is preventable,” Belinda says. “If I had have been sun smart when I was young, perhaps I would not be in the position I am now.”
SunSmart supports Belinda’s message, asking parents and teachers to do what they can to improve sunscreen use at school.
“We often hear that sunscreen is too messy, takes too much time or that people are worried about allergies. But with the right strategies in place, school communities can overcome these barriers and increase sun protection at their school,” says SunSmart Manager Sue Heward.
“I urge parents to listen to Belinda’s message and start the conversation about sunscreen with their children and school community.”
Here’s SunSmart’s advice on encouraging kids to reapply their sunscreen before they go outside to play at lunchtime.
1. Let them choose a sunscreen they like. As long as it’s SPF30 or higher, broad-spectrum and water-resistant, let them choose whether it’s a spray, a roll-on, a fragrance-free formula, etc.
2. Keep it in view. A visual reminder is handy – you can buy sunscreens that clip on to school bags, or try storing it in their lunchbox.
3. Model behaviours. An Australian study found children are 16 times more likely to use sunscreen if their parents do. Check the sun protection times each day to find out when you need sun protection.
For more tips and information, visit sunsmart.com.au