Children as young as three should be wearing sunglasses when playing outside in bright weather, say specialists.
Toddlers are especially vulnerable to the sun's rays, they claim.
The lenses of a child's eye are more transparent than an adult's, allowing more short-wavelength light to reach the retina.
It is exposure to this light, and the sun's UV rays, that can lead to a variety of vision disorders, research by the American Optometric Association suggests.
Up to 80 per cent of sun exposure takes place before the age of 18 as children spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer.
Sonal Rughani, of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, said: 'We encourage children to look after their eyes, as excessive exposure to sunlight can potentially damage the eyes and may contribute to the onset of other eye-related conditions such as cataracts.'
But parents must make sure they buy a pair of sunglasses with the necessary protection.