Keep an eye on your children, because sitting in front of screens at an early age affects visual acuity.

It’s that time again when many parents start making preparations for sending children to school.There are a multitude of organisational issues that relate to starting school.But amidst this hurried preparatory period, parents oftentimes forget to make an appointment with an ophthalmologist or an optometrist.Pro Optika recommends that you start planning for your child’s eyes to be examined by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist today so that your child can begin the new school year with excellent eyesight.

Before starting their first year in school, all children have to have their eyesight checked. This examination can be performed by visiting an ophthalmologist or an optometrist, who will assess whether a child’s visual acuity corresponds to their age. If the first visit is to an optometrist and the child’s eyesight is poorer than what is expected of their age, then they are sent to a specialist doctor. Children who have been prescribed glasses should have their eyesight examined either every six months or once a year, depending on specialist recommendations, because at that age, their visual acuity and the strength of their glasses are constantly changing. Children who wear glasses that do not meet their needs have difficulty seeing the blackboard and doing their school work. That can seriously affect children’s development and study results. Remember that children can also start experiencing problems with their eyesight at the age of eight or older. Parents also play an important part here, as they are responsible for keeping an eye on their children’s behaviour. If your child says that (s)he has trouble seeing what is on the blackboard, that his/her eyes get tired doing school work or that he/she cannot see what is written on different distant signs, or if (s)he starts sitting very close to the television or squinting his/her eyes to watch it, then be sure to take your child to a specialist.

Furthermore, it should be noted that today, technology is part of children’s daily lives. It is increasingly common for children to learn to use various devices before they can speak, walk or read.
The same pattern continues as they grow, with children using different devices for entertainment, gaming and later also for studying. Technology and apps are a convenience we need in our fast-paced lives, but often we forget how to use them responsibly. Sixty-five percent of children and teenagers spend two or more hours a day using digital devices.* Thirty-three percent of children use digital devices for three hours or more every day.* Seventy-one percent of children play games on their digital devices.* Parents might not realise the effect this kind of behaviour has on their children’s eyesight.

Excessive use of devices at a young age can lead to long-term problems – ophthalmologists have noticed that children are more frequently developing myopia or short-sightedness. On of the reasons for this is that children now engage in more near-vision activities such as using digital devices. If you do not notice anything worrying or do not know how to recognise potential warning signs, it may be too late for treatment later on.    

If your child’s eyes have been examined, then after that, it is advisable to also focus on keeping their eyes healthy.

Time spent behind screens should be limited to make sure that eyes are subject to varying degrees of strain. After watching television or using a computer, it is recommended that children go outside and do something to balance the time spent intensively watching the screen. Physical exercise is good for keeping your eyes healthy. Children who spend more time outdoors were 23% less likely to develop short-sightedness.

The eye is designed to look into varying distances and based on that, it is good to do different eye exercises. Children do these exercises by themselves in the right environment, but forget to do so when using devices. A good exercise for both children and adults is to bring your fingertip or a pencil close to your nose, to a distance where you can clearly see it (not double) – now look at the object close to you and then look at the furthest possible point in the room or outside. Repeat this exercise five times. Most people tend to do this intuitively when they need to rest their eyes, but if they are busy working or watching an interesting cartoon, grown-ups as well as little ones can simply forget about it.

It is usually not explained to children how to use devices in a safe manner to protect their health. For example, children are often ignorant about how to hold their devices to avoid squinting, or how to sit comfortably to avoid strain. The best solution is to monitor and limit the time children spend using devices.

Regular thorough eye examinations are a part of keeping your eyes healthy, and that should be kept in mind for children and adults alike. Preventively taking care of your eyes can help conserve your eyesight and identify eye diseases and other health problems early on, guaranteeing good eyesight for life.

* thevisioncounslil.org