As students and parents prepare to head back to school, Cancer Council SA is urging young South Australians to pack their SunSmart gear in their school bag and Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.
Cancer Council’s SunSmart Schools and Early Childhood Program has been running in South Australia for 24 years, thanks to support from the South Australian community. The program supports schools, early childhood centres and OSHC services to develop and implement best practice sun protection policies.
Currently, the SunSmart Schools and Early Childhood Program protects 124,000 South Australian children.
Janet is a grandmother who raised her own children in South Africa and says that since holidaying in Australia in 2009 and moving here soon after, she has admired the awareness Australian children have for sun protection.
“The key differences that I see here in Australia are that children accept hats and sunscreen as part of their everyday routine whereas in South Africa, very few parents were encouraging and educating their children,” Janet says.
“At the age of three years, my grandson (now eight years old) would NOT venture outdoors without his hat and sunscreen. He would even correct us if we went outside without hats. Whilst I was very particular about sun protecting my children, neither would have been as aware of the sun as he was at that age.
“Overall, the awareness of sun damage in this country starts at a very early age. Children grow up with the ‘slip, slop, slap, seek and slide’ principle. Having hats as a compulsory part of school uniforms makes it second nature to children.
“While melanoma figures are still high here, I feel that we are definitely moving in the right direction and way ahead of other countries. If we continue to focus on the children, we will have generations of sunwise people in good time.”
Cancer Council SA Prevention and Advocacy Manager, Christine Morris encourages all schools, students and parents to be mindful of high UV levels through the rest of summer and leading into Autumn.
“Enforcing a no hat, play in the shade rule or introducing a sunscreen reminder before outdoor play might seem a small gesture but will make a huge difference in the long term,” Christine says.
“Exposure to UV radiation during childhood and adolescence is a known critical determinant of future skin cancer risk, which is why protecting children, and talking to them about why it matters is so important. It also ensures that young people develop good sun protection habits that continue throughout adulthood.”
Getting ready for back to school? Don’t forget to add these SunSmart tips to your checklist:
- Check that your school provides SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen or put some in your child’s backpack.
- Restock sunscreen supplies at home and apply sunscreen as part of your child’s morning routine. Don’t forget to encourage your children to reapply during the school day.
- Check that your child’s school hat is still the correct size or purchase a new school hat that provides protection to the face, neck and ears. Encourage hat wearing at school and after school.
- Check that your child’s school uniform is still the correct size or look to purchase new SunSmart items. Tops with sleeves that fall to the elbow and shorts, skirts and dresses that fall to the knees are best for sun protection.
Learn more about sun protection at www.sunsmart.org.au