Teens and Tanning: Should they do it?

The statistics are alarming. Teens spend an inordinate amount of time and money going to tanning salons. The government is trying to create some restrictions on this practice, as it is so dangerous for teenagers in the long run, and melanoma rates are increasing.

Tanning is alluring not only to teens but to adults as well, because there is something about it that makes it seem like you just went on vacation, as though you are living in the lap of luxury. The image presented to others is that you are relaxed, finding time to enjoy your life and all of the fun it brings. This is true not only for teens but adults also. We are all envious of our friend that comes home from their vacation with that tanned glow of relaxation and enjoyment. There is also the message from the media that being tan is better than being pale. It give the false illusion of being more attractive. In fact, the positive benefits: clearing up your skin, or tanning to hide the blemishes, does make the lure even greater. Additionally, many teens believe that by tanning, and being more attractive (even if it’s not entirely true), they will be more popular amongst their peers.
The reason teenagers and adults keep going back is that tanning can become addictive. We know that the sun promotes the production of Vitamin D, which can make people feel good. Tanning beds can promote the same thing. The benefit of feeling more positively, having a brighter mood, is reinforced through the use of tanning beds, which will often keep people going back. The additional boost in mood from feeling more attractive will also keep people continuing to use the tanning beds. The negatives do outweigh the risks, however, and that information needs to be passed along, although it is often ignored by teens.
Parents need to intervene and must provide the proper information to their teens to help them make better choices. We all know that scare tactics alone will not create change. Teens need to have accurate information provided along with other options. Here are some ideas:

1) Teach them about the dangers: Tanning beds are about 10-15 more intense than the midday sun, which can pre-age your skin by 10-20 years. This is more likely to concern teens than the likelihood that they will get melanoma, despite the increased likelihood of its occurrence.

2) Provide options: The improved mood is false and short lived, thus increasing the desire to tan and create an addiction as previously mentioned. Provide supplements to your teen, like Vitamin D, that will help improve mood, along with incidental sun exposure. Search for a spray tanner that will make your teen look bronzed and not tan.

3) Talk about the pros and cons: It may be difficult to convince your child that tanning isn’t a great option, so weigh the pros and cons of tanning. AND, if you know the risks, don’t approve of the behavior. Always, at the end of the day, you as the parent are the role model, and have the greatest amount of influence on your child. If you offer strong, good reasons for not tanning, along with not offering rides or money to pay for it, you may be able to influence the behaviors in ways you don’t realize.

What do you think about tanning beds?

Here is the setup piece on tanning and teenagers:
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/23/earlyshow/living/parenting/main20046163.shtml?tag=mncol;lst;2

Here’s my clip:
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7360555n&tag=mncol;lst;3

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