On Monday August 21, 2017 there will be a solar eclipse. The peak time varies from location to location, and the percentage of the sun that is eclipsed also varies. In the Toronto area, the peak time will be 1:15PM to 3:45PM and the sun will be 77% covered by the moon’s shadow. There is a lot of excitement surrounding this rare event, but did you know that there should also be a lot of concern. We know that we shouldn’t stare at the sun, and on a regular basis the brightness of the sun would prevent us from doing so. However, during a solar eclipse, the brightness of the sun is reduced but the same cannot be said for its damaging UV rays. This is precisely the reason there is so much emphasis during a solar eclipse to NOT STARE DIRECTLY AT THE SUN without proper protection – and no, sunglasses won’t cut it.
It’s one thing to be able to get the word out and warn adults that staring at the sun during a solar eclipse is a bad idea, but getting that message through to children is another task entirely. Sometimes, it’s not that they do not understand, or don’t get it (although this is very much the case for really young children and babies) – it’s that they might forget. So, while we can provide them proper eye protection, the safer option would be to keep your kids indoors where they won’t accidentally be caught staring at the blinding, dimmed-eclipsed sun. It literally can cause blindness, or permanent loss of vision. Even if you have a pair of solar filter glasses, there are risks. If used improperly (and many of them are meant for adults, not children) you can still incur damage to your eyes.
And what about children at childcare? You won’t be there to take care of their eyes, so what will the people that are going to be there do for them? I would suggest talking to your care-provider to see what precautions they are taking. I called my child’s care-centre to ask what THEY were doing during the solar eclipse, and I’m happy to say that they were on it. Their response was that they were keeping the children indoors during the hours of 1PM to 4PM which is when the solar eclipse is happening in our area. They are also moving children in sun-facing rooms to other rooms within the building, during the eclipse.
If you have access to safe viewing options for the solar eclipse, go ahead and enjoy this opportunity. Just remember, the physical threat that the solar eclipse poses is real and proper precautions must be taken. It’s tough to get kids (especially young kids) to do what you want most of the time. In a case like this, where adherence to instruction is of the utmost importance, it’s just safer to remove them from dangerous situations. If you are indoors with no visible sightline to the sun, then you will not have to worry about accidentally staring directly at the sun.
If you are looking for more information on the upcoming solar eclipse, a great source is the NASA website. Enjoy!