In today’s world, electronic devices can negatively affect vision. The American Optometric Association (AOA) reports that “about 83 percent of children between ages 10 and 17 report using an electronic device more than three hours daily (42 percent report five hours or more daily), while only about 40 percent (10 percent, respectively) of parents think their kids exceed that mark,” according to the AOA’s 2014 American Eye-Q® survey and children’s omnibus survey.
“The digital era means people of all ages are spending more time than ever on electronic devices, many with very small screens, and that is going to lead to issues,” reports Dr. Sarah Hinkley, professor at Ferris State University Michigan College of Optometry. Eye conditions exacerbated by digital technology are a growing reality. The 21st century brings not only a monumental change in how people use their eyes, but also how people get their information.
Healthy eyes begin at birth. A comprehensive eye health and vision exam, even in the absence of obvious visual symptoms, may be the key to a lifetime of good vision and improved academic performance. It is recommended that a child’s first eye exam take place at age one, then at age three to stay on the right track for good eye health.
Here are some other tips for keeping your child’s vision healthy:
- Put down the tablets and step outside, but don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen! Research suggests that 80 minutes a day of daylight activity decreases a child’s chances of developing nearsightedness or myopia, even if both of their parents are nearsighted.
- Limit electronic screen time to 20-30 minutes at a time, for a total of no more than two hours per day.
- Make sure to be checked for all 9 visual and ocular skills needed to perform successfully in the classroom. A traditional vision screening outside of an Optometrist’s office often only checks for one or two.
- Wear sunglasses - not just for a fashion accessory - but for UV protection. Ocular UV protection should start in childhood. Cumulative damage from UV exposure over a lifetime contributes to cataract formation and macular degeneration.
- Talk to your family members about their eye health history.