For the most part, fifth graders don’t mind slapping on sunscreen before fun in the sun. But as kids dive into middle school, tanning becomes too cool to pass up, according to a new study from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Researchers surveyed 360 kids, first as fifth graders in 2004, then again in 2007 once the pressures of middle school had a chance to influence habits.

As fifth graders, more than half the subjects said they regularly used sunscreen. That number dropped to 25 percent once they reached eighth grade.

"When you ask kids or teens about tanning, they say people look better with a tan, and tanning has a very positive association in kids of this age, so trying to get them to limit this behavior is a difficult message to get across," Stephen Dusza, lead author and a research epidemiologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center told ABC News.

The researchers suggest their findings should lead to an increased educational effort by parents and schools to ensure middle schoolers understand the dangers of sunburn.

The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.