Deciding to let your son get contact lenses can be a big decision for any parent. Most boys who wear glasses start asking for contacts almost right away, but how does a parent know when her son is really ready? You don't want to hold him back if he could handle contacts, but you don't want to set him up for an eye infection or yourself for an endless round of purchasing new contacts if he really isn't mature enough for them yet. Are there any general guidelines you can use to determine if your son is ready to make the jump from glasses to contact lenses?
Most eye care professionals will tell you that your son is old enough for contacts when he is old enough to take care of them, but what does that mean exactly? Is there more to taking care of contacts than just making sure that they don't get lost or torn? Making sure that the contacts stay in one piece is definitely an important indicator that your son can handle the responsibility, but it is not the only one. It might not even be the most important one. Just like driving a car, merely knowing how to operate the machinery does not mean that your son is ready for the responsibility. While a misstep with a contact lens definitely doesn't have the ramifications that a misstep with a car does, not making wise decisions with contacts could cost your son his sight, either temporarily or, in the worst case scenario, permanently.
In deciding whether your son is old enough for contacts, consider whether he makes good decisions in general. If his eyes were irritated, would he keep his contacts out and tell you about it, or would he wear them anyway? If he comes home late at night (from, depending on his age, Boy Scouts, a date, or practice of some kind) and is tired, could you count on him to take out his contacts, or might he decide to sleep in them "just this once." Can your son learn to recognize when his contacts need replacing? That is, will he realize that they are getting either blurry, creased, or in some other way compromised? On a far more basic level, can he be taught how to put them in and take them out? These are learned skills that require some maturity.
Your eye doctor is certainly right when he says that your son is ready for contacts when he can take care of them, but that point comes at different times for all boys. Some may be ready at 10, while others may not be ready even at 16. As with all things, you are the best judge of when your son should wear contacts. A couple of other factors you may want to consider are whether he plays sports that make contacts either a benefit or a liability, and whether contacts are something that you plan to pay for or that you want him to share in the cost of.
Getting contacts is likely something your son has been looking forward to if he currently wears glasses. By making an informed decision about when to let him get contacts, you can make sure that the first time he gets them he gets to keep them.