Protecting and Caring for Your Child's Eyes
Poor vision may cause struggles with learning, coordination, or social development in children. Fortunately, these four things can help you improve or enhance your child's vision.
Encourage Your Children to Play Outside
Playing outdoors, once a favorite childhood activity, isn't quite as popular these days. Safety concerns, easy access to digital devices, or the lack of nearby playmates mean that many kids rarely venture outside to play.
In addition to keeping your child's bones and muscles strong, playing outdoors may also reduce the risk that they will develop myopia (nearsightedness). Kids who are myopic can see close objects clearly, but everything in the distance looks blurry.
Nearsightedness occurs when the eyeball becomes too long. When this happens, light rays focus in front of the retina instead of directly on it. The retina is a layer of light-sensing cells at the back of the eye. It converts light rays into electrical impulses and sends them to the brain for processing.
In the past few decades, myopia rates have begun to rise throughout the world. In North America, 42 percent of school children are now nearsighted, according to a review published in BMC Ophthalmology in 2020.
Reduced exposure to sunlight could be at least partly to blame for the increase. Your child may be less likely to become nearsighted if he or she spends an hour or two outside every day. If your son or daughter is already nearsighted, increasing outdoor playtime could slow the progression of myopia.
Limit the Time Your Child Spends on Digital Devices
Kids rely on digital technology just as much as adults, using it for schoolwork, socializing, and games. It's difficult to get enough exposure to sunlight if kids spend much of their time indoors using digital devices, but the increased myopia risk isn't the only problem.
Using the devices for hours at a time can trigger digital eyestrain. Eyestrain causes headaches, pain in the muscles around the eyes, stiff neck and shoulder muscles, dry eye, and blurred vision.
The World Health Organization recommends no screen time for kids younger than 2 and an hour or less of screen time for children 2 to 5. It's difficult to set strict limits on screen time for older kids, particularly those who need to use digital devices for school work. Parents and children can work together to create realistic use schedules for the devices.
When your kids use digital devices, remind them to follow the 20-20-20 rule. After playing a game on the TV, doing homework on the computer, or watching videos on their phones for 20 minutes, look 20 feet into the distance for at least 20 seconds. It's also a good idea to take 30-minute breaks every hour or two.
Offer Video Games with Vision Benefits
Some types of video games can actually enhance your child's vision. For example, video games that involve catching falling objects before they hit the bottom of the screen may improve your child's ability to see moving objects clearly and follow them with their eyes.
Games about spotting differences offer a simple way to fine-tune visual discrimination, a skill necessary for reading and writing. Matching games improve visual memory and make it easier for kids to remember what they've read or seen.
Schedule a Comprehensive Eye Exam
Do you rely on school vision screenings for your child's eye care? School screenings don't always provide an accurate picture of your child's vision. In fact, up to 75 percent of school vision screenings don't detect vision problems, according to the American Optometric Association.
Eye doctors not only check your child's visual acuity (ability to see clearly) during comprehensive eye exams but also diagnose more subtle vision problems, like focusing, alignment, or eye teaming difficulties. Children who have these problems can have 20/20 vision yet still struggle to read, write, complete math problems, concentrate, or excel in sports.
If your child is diagnosed with a problem that affects his or her visual skills, vision therapy is an excellent option. The therapy improves the connection between the brain and eyes with activities, games, special lenses, and other aids and devices. Vision therapy offers a simple, effective way to improve your child's usable vision.
Could vision therapy help your child? Contact our office to schedule a comprehensive eye exam.
BMC Ophthalmology: A Review on the Epidemiology of Myopia in School Children Worldwide, 1/14/20
World Health Organization: To Grow Up Healthy, Children Need to Sit Less and Play More, 4/24/19
American Optometric Association: School-Aged Vision: 6 to 18 Years of Age
American Academy of Ophthalmology: Computers, Digital Devices and Eyestrain, 3/3/20