We’ve officially entered the back-to-school season, which comes with a seemingly never-ending checklist:
- Purchasing new clothes and new shoes
- Gathering school supplies
- Stocking your fridge for nutritious lunches
- Getting back into nighttime and morning routines
It goes on and on. But what many parents forget to add to their list is a comprehensive eye exam.
As schools become increasingly focused on technology, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of your child’s eye health.
Due to restrictions on outdoor activity and increased digital learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, reports of digital eye strain rose to 50-60% in the pediatric population. 1
On top of that, one study showed that more than 50% of children attending online classes for more than two hours a day reported symptoms of digital eye strain.2
A study performed by Common Sense Media, The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens, found that “American teenagers (13- to 18-year-olds) average about nine hours (8:56) of entertainment media use, excluding time spent at school or for homework. Tweens (8- to 12-year-olds) use an average of about six hours’ (5:55) worth of entertainment media daily.”3
Astonishingly, these stats don’t include time spent at school or on homework—both of which often involve the use of screens and digital devices.
It appears that schools show no signs of scaling back on the use of technology any time soon—even in in-person settings. Therefore, it’s important to take our children’s eye health seriously and understand the role annual comprehensive eye exams play in preventing and managing common vision problems.
As premium eye care experts, we know parents have a lot of questions about their child’s eye health. Here are our answers to some of the most common questions we hear related to annual comprehensive eye exams for children.
Why does my child need an eye exam every year?
Up to 80% of a child’s classroom learning is vision-based.4 This means that even the smallest vision problem can have a severe impact on a child’s academic performance.
Daily school activities require skills such as eye tracking, visual memory, color and depth perception, binocular coordination, and more.
Eye tracking is the ability to efficiently move the eyes (from left to right, right to left, up and down, or in circular motions). It also involves the ability to focus on a moving object.
Eye tracking is essential for reading, writing, drawing, copying something from the chalkboard or whiteboard, solving math problems, playing many sports, and even using scissors.
Visual memory is the ability to immediately recall what they eye has seen. The need for visual memory starts at a very early age, allowing a child to remember what a shape, object, or color looks like.
It also plays a role in reading comprehension, writing, and spelling, helping a child remember a sequence of letters or words.
Color and Depth Perception
Color perception is the ability to determine which color is which. This skill is important for accurate interpretation of color-coded materials often found in schools, such as charts and graphs.
Depth perception is the ability to discern how near or far an object is in relation to other objects.
Depth perception is particularly important for academic performance, like the development of spatial skills and visualization, as well as athletic performance.
Binocular coordination is the ability of the two eyes to accurately work together at the same time. If they don’t, reading difficulties may occur and be yet another barrier to academic success.
How can I determine if my child is experiencing vision problems?
Your child needs to have all of the abovementioned vision skills (and more) for effective learning. But it can be difficult to determine whether your child is experiencing problems with any of these skills. Here’s are some signs to look out for:
- Short attention span
- Loses his or her place when reading
- Avoids reading altogether
- Blurred vision
- Eyes are sensitive to light
- Eyes turn in or don’t focus
- Excessive tearing or drainage from the eyes
How can I protect my child’s eyes from digital eye strain?
Many children are spending a large portion of their school day looking at screens only to come home and look at screens some more.
Staring at a digital screen for prolonged periods of time causes strain on the eyes. But even short periods of time can affect our eyes. In fact, just two hours of screen time per day can increase the risk of developing digital eye strain.
Digital eye strain comes along with symptoms such as:
- Dry eyes
- Eye pain
- Eye fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Redness in the eyes
- Shoulder and neck pain
- Poor posture
The good news is, there are ways to lessen the effects of digital eye strain and slow the progression of related issues such as myopia (or nearsightedness), hyperopia (or farsightedness), and astigmatism.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology's professional magazine, Ophthalmology, published a study noting that 1st graders who spent at least 11 hours per week outside in the sunshine had a slower progression of myopia.5
This proves the importance of limiting screen time as much as possible; however, we all know how difficult that can be today. So another solution is to purchase blue light glasses.
An overabundance of blue light negatively impacts quality of sleep by interfering with the body’s production of melatonin. Studies have shown that reducing blue light exposure before bed can improve sleep quality, and therefore, academic performance, too.6
Routine comprehensive eye exams will also help detect possible vision problems early on and allow you to incorporate glasses, contact lenses, or other vision-correcting solutions into your child’s daily routine.
At what age should my child start receiving comprehensive eye exams?
According to the American Optometric Association, children should have their first eye exam by the time they are one year old.
A second exam should take place between the ages of three and five. After 1st grade, annual eye exams are recommended until high school graduation, or approximately age 18.
Set reminders for yourself to schedule these routine eye exams for your child to stay on top of their overall eye health.
Don’t skip your child’s back-to-school eye exam!
Our eyes are not to be taken for granted. Advocate for your child’s vision health and schedule an appointment for their next (or first!) eye exam.
Monocle’s services include:
- Pediatric Eye Exams
- Eye Exams
- Myopia Control
- Contact Lens Fittings
- Lasik and Cataract Co-management
- Eye Disease Management
The Monocle Premier Eye Care team offers years of experience and a true commitment to providing your family with excellent care. We offer patient-focused, friendly service to children of all ages.
Your satisfaction is our top priority. We take as much time as is necessary to have conversations about the health of your child’s eyes, their vision, and anything else with a focus on optimizing their well-being.
Click here to schedule your child’s eye exam.