A record number of Victorian educators took the initiative to upskill in sun protection during lockdown helping to ensure children are well protected as they returned to learn and play outdoors this month.
With Victorian schools and early childhood services re-opening at a time when UV levels are rising, educators and teachers are all set to be great SunSmart role models for children and families. In July/August SunSmart saw a whopping 450% increase in registrations for the online learning platform Generation SunSmart showing Victorian educators are taking their duty of care in sun protection seriously.
Knowing when and how to protect children is critical as sun exposure in childhood and adolescence determines to a large extent the lifetime potential for skin cancer. Melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer is also the most common cancer among Australian adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 years.
The good news is, skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer and reducing UV exposure in the early years reduces the risk of skin cancer later in life.
“Good sun protection at all ages when the UV is 3 and above reduces the risk of skin cancer - and starting those practices early in life is the best form of prevention” – Heather Walker, Head of SunSmart
Melbourne sees an average UV of 7 in October. This is classified as ‘high’ on the World Health Organisation’s UV Index. At this level skin damage from overexposure to UV can occur more quickly.
Children are particularly vulnerable at school and early childhood settings due to outdoor play at high risk times such as recess and lunch making it important for educators to be well informed when it comes to sun protection.
Head of SunSmart, Heather Walker said the number of educators brushing up their UV knowledge this year was extremely positive. With sun protection being a shared responsibility, she urged parents and carers to follow suit and help children develop independent sun protection skills.
“The best way for children to learn good sun protection habits is for role modelling and education to take place at home as well as at care and school. Teaching children how to apply sunscreen themselves from the age of three years will help ensure they can do it independently when outside the home.” Ms Walker said.
Tips for helping children be SunSmart at school and services
- Look for clothing that covers as much skin as possible. SLIP on clothing with a tighter-weave fabric, higher necklines and longer sleeve and leg length. Get involved in the uniform committee to make sure the school uniform or dress-code always meets the Australian standards.
- Apply a generous amount of SPF30 (or higher), broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen 20 minutes before drop-off. Provide permission for sunscreen to be reapplied during the day, pack it in your child’s bag and teach them to SLOP on their own sunscreen so they can do it independently.
- Pack your child’s clearly labelled sun protective hat each day. Make sure your child is ready to SLAP on their broad-brim, bucket or legionnaire style hat that shades their face, neck and ears.
- Encourage your child to SEEK shady spots for play.
- If approved by the school or service, encourage your child to SLIDE on close-fitting, wrap-around sunglasses that cover as much of the eye area as possible and meet the Australian Standards.
More tips on protecting your skin.