News & Press

Teaching Our Kids Right From Wrong

Nobody has ever accused me of being at a loss for words. Ever. But I got awfully close to speechless when I saw the story of a New Jersey mom arrested for putting her daughter into a tanning booth at a salon. Many of the facts around the story are in dispute, though nobody is contradicting what the school nurse saw. A little girl with a serious sunburn. The girl told the nurse that her mom took her tanning.

The story is as sad as it is outrageous. The mother clearly has a wildly distorted self-image, blind to her own shocking appearance. It’s distressing to see someone quite nearly disfigure themselves with a tan. Is disfigure too strong a word? Look at the photos and you decide.

The daughter is a beautiful ginger girl – pale, red-headed, blue eyes. She's exactly the person who should be vigilantly protected from overexposure to UV. Someone who should be taught that she's beautiful just the way she is and that, to increase her chances of staying healthy and living to a ripe old age, she must protect herself from UV rays as she grows older and more independent.

Given the damage this mother has done to herself, and potentially to her daughter, it's easy to tsk-tsk and shake our heads at her. But perhaps the true outrage isn't in the extremes of this story. It’s in the middle zone that is obscured by it – where much greater numbers of children aren't warned by their parents about the dangers of tanning the way they're taught about drugs, alcohol and texting and driving. It’s in that middle zone where we tell our teens that a "healthy glow" will help them look beautiful for prom or that tanning is ok if it's only "sometimes." This story just might illuminate a blindness that's more insidious than that of a mom in NJ – because it's so rampant and so subtle.

Teach your children well. They are already beautiful. Their skin is already the right color. A tan isn't worth the risk.

— Tim, MRF