Teens and Tanning Beds

You’ve had all kinds of talks with your teen, but have you had the “no tanning beds” talk? This talk is just as important as teaching your children about the dangers of smoking, drugs and alcohol.

In fact, those who use tanning beds before the age of 18 have an increased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 85 percent.

While teens can be stubborn, there are ways you can effectively talk to them about the dangers of tanning beds.

Begin the talk early, preferably in middle school.

It is important to start talking to your children about the dangers of tanning beds when they’re in middle school; right around the time they are becoming a teen. The earlier you can embed in your children’s minds that tanning beds are dangerous, the better.

Talk to your teen in a way that resonates with them.

Since teens tend to think they are invincible, it’s more effective to focus on how tanning affects their appearance later in life. Tell your teen that tanning causes their skin to age faster, resulting in wrinkles, age spots and leathery-looking skin. If melanoma runs in your immediate family, highlight the fact that having a parent, child or sibling with melanoma actually increases their risk of developing the disease. This real-life example can hit home with your teen.

Walk the talk.

Teach your teen to love the skin they’re in. Be a role model by staying away from tanning beds yourself. Set an overall good example by practicing sun safety around your children. When outside, wear sunscreen, a hat and seek shade to avoid sunburn.

Prove your point and hold your ground.

Share information, stats and real-life stories with your teen regarding the risks of tanning beds. Use examples such as, “20 minutes in a tanning bed is equal to spending three hours at the beach with no sun protection,” and “UV light is a carcinogen, which is just as harmful as cigarette smoke.” Stats can be found on reputable websites, such as the American Academy of Dermatology and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Remember to stay firm; tanning beds are far too dangerous for you to back down.

Allow safer alternatives.

Tell your teen that there are safer alternatives that mirror the same tan look, except without leathery skin, unattractive moles or skin cancer risks, and offer to pay for their spray tan, tanning lotion or whatever self-tanning product they choose.

Children’s Dermatology Services provides mole screening for melanoma and other skin cancers. For more information, visit our Dermatology Services page.