At Coastal Vision, almost half of the patients who visit us are children. So, we frequently get questions about how old a child must be in order to wear contact lenses. The truth is there is no magic age or set answer to this question. But, there are several studies that now point to children as young as 8 years old as being both mature enough and technically capable for successful contact lens wear.
There are some criteria that a child of any age should be able to meet in order to try contact lenses, but before we get into those let's look at some of the reasons WHY children should wear contact lenses.
First is improved ability to participate in sports. It's no secret that glasses may impose some restrictions and possibly safety concerns depending on the particular sporting activity. Those challenges go away when the child wears contact lenses and studies have shown that the motivation to participate in sports increases significantly when contact lenses are used instead of glasses.
The second, and probably more impactful, reason for contact lenses in children is an improvement in self-esteem and social interactions. One research paper indicated glasses in children were associated with shyness, introversion, and a less outgoing social nature. And the ACHIEVE study found that when compared to glasses wearers, contact lens wearers aged 8 to 11 were much more likely to feel better about their physical appearance and were more motivated to interact socially with their peers.
When considering contact lenses in children, there are some criteria that need to be addressed ahead of time. While studies may indicate 8 years old as a mature enough age, the parents input on the maturity level of their child is vital in this process. If a child shows maturity through completion of homework, taking care of a family pet, and practicing daily hygiene tasks they could be successful contact lens wearer. If they don't demonstrate these abilities, then the goal should be to work on these matters first in order to show maturity to their parents.
The second factor is motivation. Both child and parent must be motivated to transition the child into contact lens wear. The child's motivation is essential for proper wear and care. The parent's motivation is necessary in order to play an active role in reinforcing good contact lens wear habits.
These days, the type and amount of visual prescription is essentially not a factor in contact lens wear in children. Advancements in contact lens designs mean that nearly every patient can wear contact lenses of some kind. And advancements in daily disposable (Dailies) contact lenses make them a perfect place to start with young children due to their ease of use and lower risk of complications due to their more frequent replacement.