I remember when I got my first pair of glasses. I was 18 and I had been getting headaches. My grandpa suggested that maybe I couldn’t see and I laughed because you would think I would know if I could see or not. Right? As it turns out, my grandpa was right and I got my first pair of glasses just before I started college. I can only imagine how difficult that first semester of college would have been if I was straining to see and dealing with headaches. I have become a believer in getting children’s eyes checked as part of their annual checkup.
I know you are busy, I sure am. Who knew raising a family could be so time consuming? Is a busy schedule keeping you from getting your kiddos’ eyes checked? Or maybe you do not think your children need their eyes checked? Perhaps you are sure they will have perfect vision like yours? Maybe they will, but consider this information from an American Optometric Association (AOA) survey that found the use of technology among children both at home and in the classroom is on the rise. The most eye-opening statistic for me was that parents drastically underestimate the time their children spend on digital devices. The use of digital devices can strain the eye and affect eye health.
Consider the following statistics:
- An AOA survey reports that 83 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 estimate they use an electronic device for three or more hours each day.
- A separate AOA survey of parents revealed that only 40 percent of parents believe their children use an electronic device for that same amount of time. Most parents believe the time their kids spend using technology is far less than what it is.
- Eighty percent of children surveyed report experiencing burning, itchy or tired eyes after using electronic devices for long periods of time. These are all symptoms of digital eye strain, a temporary vision condition caused by prolonged use of technology. Additional symptoms may include headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain.
- Optometrists are also growing increasingly concerned about the kinds of light everyday electronic devices give off – high-energy, short-wavelength blue light – and how those rays might affect and even age the eyes.
That sounds pretty scary. Living in Arizona I already have to worry about my children’s eye health due to our high UV factor, but now I find I need to monitor digital devices as well. Thankfully there are some easy steps you and I can take to help protect our children’s eye health. According to the AOA:
- Taking frequent visual breaks is important. Children should make sure they practice the 20-20-20 rule: when using technology or doing near work, take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away.
- Check the height and position of the device. Computer screens should be four to five inches below eye level and 20 to 28 inches away from the eyes. Digital devices should be held a safe distance away from eyes and slightly below eye level.
- Check for glare on the screen. Windows or other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of a computer monitor. If this happens, turn the desk or computer to prevent glare on the screen. Also consider adjusting the brightness of the screen on your digital device or changing its background color.
- Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen. A lower wattage light can be substituted for a bright overhead light or a dimmer switch may be installed to give flexible control of room lighting.
- Adjust font size. Increase the size of text on the screen of the device to make it easier on your eyes when reading.
- Keep blinking. Frequent blinking reduces the chances for developing dry eye by keeping the front surface of the eye moist.
Comprehensive eye exams by an optometrist are absolutely essential in identifying the signs and symptoms associated with digital eye strain and other vision problems. I strongly agree with the AOA recommendation that every child have an eye exam by an optometrist soon after six months of age, before age three, and every year thereafter.
This infographic lays out many of the statistics I listed above. Help other families out by pinning and sharing it on social media. Let’s get the word out about how important this issue is.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Do your kiddos get their eyes checked every year? Do they wear glasses? Do you? Has anyone in your home experienced eye strain from technology? Feel free to leave a comment! I love hearing from my readers.
Connect with the American Optometric Association online: