The end of summer vacation and start of a new school year is always a stressful time for parents and students, so it’s not uncommon for things to slip through the cracks. Parents, however, should be mindful to add one very important back-to-school priority to their checklist: a comprehensive eye exam.
As children, our eyes and our vision are still developing. With more schools relying on digital technology – in the classroom and for kids learning from home – it’s imperative that they have their eyes examined and also that they understand the impact of too much screen time.
“While schools have done their best to keep kids from falling behind, the pandemic has unfortunately led to increased use of devices in the home, and those habits are difficult to break,” explains Dr. Vivienne Velasco of iFocus Vision Center in Las Vegas. “Often, vision problems can go unnoticed, and that can be very harmful whether a child is learning remotely or in the classroom.”
Digital Eyestrain and Remote Learning
When the coronavirus pandemic closed schools and sent millions of children home in 2020, the amount of time those kids spent in front of a screen surged, with those age 6-12 spending at least 50 percent more time at a computer or on a device. This was unavoidable as schools transitioned to remote learning and exhausted parents searched for ways to keep their kids occupied while at home.
But that increased screen time also increased the risk of digital eyestrain, a condition that occurs when someone spends several hours looking at a digital device. Excessive blue light, which is prevalent in everything from fluorescent lighting to smartphones, LED televisions, computer monitors, and tablet screens, can cause eyestrain, cause a burning or stinging sensation in the eyes, and affects sleep patterns.
Worse, prolonged exposure can increase the risk of dry eye or Myopia (nearsightedness). The condition has become one of the most common vision problems in children, much of it because of increased indoor screen time, and a lack of exposure to natural outdoor light. Myopia causes blurry vision, but that can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, or, in some cases, refractive surgery.
Limiting screen time may be difficult for children learning remotely during the day. That’s why Dr. Velasco recommends the “20-20-20” rule: stepping away from the screen every 20 minutes to focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
“While you can’t always limit screen time during class, you can encourage your child to position their monitor at least 20 inches away from their eyes and teach them the benefits of good posture,” Dr. Velasco says. “These things can protect a child’s vision while learning remotely.
“Outside of that, it’s vitally important that screen time is limited at night and a child turns off the phone or device at least two hours before bedtime.”
If a child wears glasses, Dr. Velasco recommends a Blue Blocking Non-Glare treatment for the lenses. This reduces the amount of harmful blue light that can penetrate the eyes.
Signs of Vision Problems in Children
There are several signs of vision problems in children that parents, and teachers, may notice, but a comprehensive eye exam will determine if a vision problem exists. Some of these signs include:
- Squinting to see distant objects
- Holding reading material too close to the face
- Headaches between the eyebrows
- Poor coordination
- Closing one eye while reading
The Benefits of a Back-to-School Eye Exam
School vision screenings don’t tell the whole story, and they can sometimes misdiagnose a vision problem as a more serious condition, such as ADHD. The only way to determine if a child’s eyes are healthy and functioning well enough for the demands of school is by having a comprehensive dilated eye exam, which examines:
- Visual Acuity
- Eye Muscle Teaming
- Color Vision
- Depth Perception
- Refractive Status
- Eye coordination
- Depth perception
- Focusing ability
The eye exam is critical during your child’s grade school years. For example, if a child has trouble seeing the blackboard or squints, Dr. Velasco will check for nearsightedness (myopia). A child with trouble seeing closer objects will be checked for farsightedness (hyperopia).
iFocus Vision Center remains open with strict guidelines in place to protect patients and staff members. Patients with an urgent need are seen by appointment only, and iFocus offers curbside pickup for eyeglasses or contact lens refills. To schedule an appointment, contact us at 702-473-5660.