The number 1 tip for getting teens to wear sunscreen

2 February 2016 | Vanessa Rock
Teenagers and sun protection

We all know that Australia has among the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. And while skin cancer is often thought to be something only older people need to worry about, the reality is that melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australians aged 15-29 years.

The scientific evidence is clear, too much exposure to the sun in the first 15 years greatly increases the risk of developing skin cancer later in life, so encouraging young Australians to be sun smart is a priority for Cancer Council NSW. We know that young people challenge authority, push boundaries and are a difficult group to reach with health messages.

However, recent Cancer Council research demonstrates the important role parents have in influencing their teenagers’ sun smart behaviours.

Young people in Australia grow up with knowing they need to Slip, Slap, Slop, Seek and Slide. Yet despite having high levels of awareness about sun protection and skin cancer, teenagers are still spending more time outdoors, are more likely to tan and get sunburnt more frequently than adults.

So we did some research into teenage sun safety and here’s what we found.

Firstly, we spoke to young people

  • Not only do teenagers understand the importance of sun protection, they generally have good intentions to be sun smart.
  • Despite these good intentions, young people often find themselves unprepared for sun protection once they are out and about.
  • Almost all teenagers we spoke to reported applying sunscreen before going to the beach or pool.
  • More than one third did not pack sunscreen to take with them.
  • More than half did not have a hat or sunglasses.
  • The majority of young people still rely on their parents to not only supply sun protection products such as sunscreen but to remind them to use sun protection before they visit a pool or beach.


We then talked to parents of children aged 12-18 years of age

  • The majority of parents are concerned about the risks of excessive sun exposure and sunburn may have their child’s health and encourage their teenagers to be sun smart.
  • Almost all (97%) of parents are encouraging adolescents to apply sunscreen before heading outdoors.
  • Over one third reported that they did not urge their child take sunscreen with them or pack it on their child’s behalf.
  • Most parents are purchasing a single sunscreen product to be shared by the whole family.

This indicates that in the majority of households teenagers do not have ready access to their own supply of sunscreen that they can take with them when they are heading to the beach, pool or any other outdoor activity.

Used correctly sunscreen can significantly reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer. As a parent, you play an important role in your teenager’s sun protection. Cancer Council NSW invites you to join forces with us to support your child to be safe in the sun.


So what’s the Number 1 tip for getting teens to wear sunscreen?

Make sure your kids have sunscreen products to take with them. When you buy sunscreen for the family stock up on small tubes and put it in  their bag if you have to.