"I think especially at this age, and in general, there are a lot of forces that promote tanning," Fox News quoted Stephen Dusza, a researcher at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and lead author of the new study, as saying.
Advertising and the tanning culture of many celebrities may party be blame for this changing behaviour in kids, said Dusza.
He said that he also expected to see some decline in sunscreen use in adolescence, "but I was struck by the magnitude of the reduction in the use of sunscreen, a 50 percent drop."
Dusza's group surveyed 360 Massachusetts fifth graders about their time in the sun, how often they used sun protection and their attitudes about tanning. Three years later, the kids answered the same questions.
Only one in four of the eighth graders said they used sunscreen when they were outside for more than six hours, which was half as many who said they used sunscreen while in fifth grade.
Four out of 10 of the kids also went outside just to get a tan when they were in eighth grade, compared to two out of 10 when they were in fifth grade.
Despite the children spending more time outside trying to get a tan as they approached adolescence, the number of kids who got sunburned remained the same at about 50 percent.
Dusza said he's not certain why sunburns didn't increase, but that maybe the kids defined sunburn differently as they got older or that their outdoor activities had changed.
Dr. Sophie Balk, an attending pediatrician at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore and a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, both in New York, said the study "underlines that many young people aren't protecting their skin."
This is a concern, Balk said, because of evidence that sun damage at a young age is tied to a higher risk later on of developing melanoma - the most deadly of the skin cancers.