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Kids Say Specs Make Kids Look Smart

When I was shopping for new eyeglass frames recently, my 14-year-old daughter wanted a pair, too. Not that she needs glasses; her vision's perfect. But she thought the glasses looked really cool.

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How far we've come since I was 14, when glasses conferred instant nerd status on their wearers. (Of course, frames then weren't as fashionable as the ones my daughter and I were looking at. But, still.)

Jeffrey Walline, an assistant professor of optometry at Ohio State University, wanted to find out how young kids these days perceive kids who wear glasses. His study in the May issue of the journal Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics was meant to give eye-care professionals insight that might come in handy when telling kids they need specs. Similar research has been conducted on adults, but not on kids, the study notes.

Walline had 80 kids ages 6 to 10 (the age range during which many children get their first glasses) look at 24 pairs of pictures of kids and then tell researchers the following:
Which child in each pair would they rather play with? Which one looked smarter? Which looked better at playing sports? Which was better looking? Which looked more shy? Which looked more honest?

The children in each pair of pictures were of different ethnicities and genders; one in each pair wore glasses.

Walline's findings suggest that kids don't much care whether other kids wear glasses or not. The only question whose answers were heavily influenced by spectacle-wearing was the one about which kid looked smarter. About two-thirds of the participants -- bespectacled and not -- said the kids with glasses looked smarter. (Kids with glasses were also regarded as looking more honest, but the association there wasn't as strong.)

Walline tells me he wasn't surprised by the findings. He points out that media-promoted stereotypes link glasses-wearing to braininess. The only surprise, Walline says, is that "younger kids believed those stereotypes."

This is good news for kids with glasses. Walline notes that (as my daughter's glasses-lust illustrates), "Glasses are a kind of fashion statement," he says. "They don't make kids less socially desirable."

Note to my daughter: About those glasses? The answer's still "no." At least until you need them.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  May 16, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health  
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