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How Can My Child Watch a Solar Eclipse Safely?

Solar eclipses happen when the moon briefly moves in between the earth and the sun, blocking out part or all of the sun. They can be fun to watch with your child, but eye damage is a risk.

It’s dangerous to look at the sun at any time, even for a few seconds. Although the sun may not seem as bright during a solar eclipse, its powerful rays can still harm eyes. These tips can help you protect your child’s sight.

Why Is It Dangerous to Watch a Solar Eclipse Without Eye Protection?

Looking at the sun without the right protection can burn a part of the eye called the retina in just a few seconds. And because it’s not painful, kids don’t know their eyes are being harmed.

When the retina is damaged, it can take hours for symptoms to happen. Mild ones can include:

  • discomfort when looking at bright lights
  • headache

The longer someone looks at the eclipse without proper protection, the more serious the symptoms can be. More severe vision problems can include:

  • blurry vision
  • blind spots
  • trouble seeing colors or shapes

Most of the time, symptoms go away on their own after a while. But it can take months. And sometimes they don’t fully go away. If kids have any eye problems after viewing an eclipse, they should see an eye doctor.

Safety Tips for Watching a Solar Eclipse

  • Wear eclipse glasses or use a handheld solar viewer. These have lenses that are thousands of times darker than those of regular sunglasses. 

    Regular sunglasses won’t protect a child’s eyes during a solar eclipse.
    The American Astronomical Society gives tips on using these special glasses and viewers safely. Choose ones that meet an eye safety standard called ISO 12312-2. Fake ones won’t give enough protection. Don’t use glasses or viewers if they’re damaged.
  • Use a pinhole projector. This is a way to see the eclipse on another surface, like an index card or cardboard box by using a small hole. NASA has step-by-step instructions.
  • Watch it online or on TV.

Is It Safe to Take Pictures of a Solar Eclipse or Record It?

It’s not safe to photograph or record a solar eclipse. Eclipse glasses and solar viewers shouldn’t be used with a camera (or binoculars or a telescope). The lenses of these items can focus the sun’s rays too strongly and harm your child’s eyes.

Professional photographers use special filters with their cameras that let them take images and videos safely.

What Other Safety Tips Should We Follow?

If kids will be out in the sun during a solar eclipse, you’ll want to protect their skin as well as their eyes. Use sunscreen and a hat. You also might have them wear a long-sleeve shirt and pants.

What Else Should I Know?

Places like museums, planetariums, and science centers may have solar eclipse viewing parties and offer proper eye protection.

A type of eclipse that’s safer to watch is a lunar eclipse. This is when the moon passes into the earth’s shadow. Since the moon doesn’t make its own light, there’s no need to protect eyes or skin. You can watch a lunar eclipse safely without special eyewear.

Reviewed by: Daniel J. Lattin, MD
Date Reviewed: Mar 27, 2024

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