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Have you ever wondered if you’re doing everything you can to protect your kids’ eyes? Is there anything you can do to help your kids avoid needing glasses? Could screen time be hurting your kids’ eyes and causing digital eye strain?
I ask myself these questions ALL the time! Growing up everyone around me wore glasses – and I mean “coke bottle” glasses. Though it wasn’t a surprise that I ended up needing glasses, I don’t think anyone anticipated how bad my vision would actually get. I have a juvenile form of macular degeneration which causes central vision loss. It means that even with the best glasses on the market, I’m not correctable to 20-20 among other things.
My own personal experiences with vision issues and vision loss have made me extra careful when it comes to my kids’ vision. I watch for signs of them struggling to read or see things all the time and I try to protect their eyes whenever I can!
I also ask our eye doctor tons of questions to make sure that I’m doing everything I can to help them! When the Global Myopia Awareness Coalition (GMAC) reached out to me and asked if we could work together to share the importance of vision health in children, I was so excited! What a perfect chance for me to share some important information about children eye health!
What is Myopia?
Myopia is also known as nearsightedness. It’s when someone can see things up close well but struggle to see things that are far away well. When a kid has myopia, they might be able to see a piece of paper in front of them well. However, if you pull it further away or even ask them to read off a whiteboard, they might struggle. Myopia also increases the risk for other detrimental eye diseases, which is why it’s important to slow its risk of progression.
Here’s a short video about myopia and the effect on children by PBS:
Start a conversation with your kids about vision health
So what should you do?
GMAC wants to encourage parents to go on a Vision Mission – It’s a day long play date with your kid that’s full of fun, silly, meaningful, or challenging activities – all centered around visiting the eye doctor to ask about new treatment options for myopia!
This is an amazing opportunity to start the conversation about eye health with your kids in a fun and non-intimidating day! By planning a fun day that includes a trip to the eye doctor, you can have a fun day of bonding with your kids, associate good memories with the experience of going to the eye doctor, and get some key information from your doctor that will serve them for years to come!
During our Vision Mission, we went to a nearby town center that has tons of fun murals. We walked (and ran) around pointing out all the fun murals. We got smoothies at a new smoothie place that had just opened up and played with bubbles that a store was blowing outside (it was a soap shop and smelled so good!). Then we went to the eye doctor for my oldest child’s second eye exam.
I scheduled my eye exam for the same day at the same doctor so we were able to experience each step together which I think helped make the experience more fun.
Innovations in Myopia Treatment
When we were done, we learned that my oldest child had reached the point where he really did need to use glasses while reading and during class. We got him glasses last year but it was still “optional” then. Now it was time to start wearing them for real.
That’s when I knew I had to start asking the eye doctor questions! My two main questions revolved around digital eye strain and comfort. I wanted to know what we could do to help him and his vision beyond just getting him glasses.
I was excited to hear that they now make lenses with cool features that would help him switch between reading the page in front of him to reading the whiteboard. With these new lenses he shouldn’t get eye strain related headaches which I think he was getting with his first pair of glasses.
I’m also keeping in mind that even in the 4th grade, he is already spending so much of his day at a computer either at school or at home when he does homework. I’m amazed at how much time kids already spend on the computer for school, which makes breaks from screen time to go outside and play all the more important at home!
I’m so happy that I specifically asked more questions this time! I’ve been wearing glasses since I was five years old and I’ve never asked anything but “what’s my prescription”!
Effects of screen time on children’s vision
So why is screen time so bad for kids and how might it be causing or worsening myopia? Well, I’m not a doctor so I can’t say for sure but based on my discussions with eye doctors and reading about it, it seems like it might come down to a few things. One thing we know for sure is:
Computer screen, tablets, TVs have us focusing on things very close to us which basically overexerts our eye muscles causing eye strain and potentially damage. Kind of like holding your hands out in front of you for a few hours – it’s not hard but overtime will definitely take its toll on your muscles.
If this is something you’re worried about, don’t take my word for it! Plan a Vision Mission and talk to your eye doctor about it!
Too much screen time symptoms
So how do you know if your kid might be getting too much screen time? How do you know if they’re experiencing eye fatigue or maybe the initial signs of myopia?
Start by talking to your eye doctor or even their pediatrician if your little one is really young and you’re concerned! Doctors say an annual comprehensive eye exam should be scheduled for children as early as six months old.
Based on my own personal experience, examples of eye strain symptoms are:
- Dry eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Blurred vision
It can be hard to avoid this at times, but we can definitely help our kids! If you spot your kids experiencing any signs of eye strain or you see them squinting when trying to read, talk to your eye doctor about what you can do!
So what can you do about your kid’s eye health?
In some cases myopia is genetic, but environmental factors play a big role too! No matter the cause, if we as parents can minimize the progression or keep it from getting any worse, why would we not?
I think we took a great first step during our Vision Mission and I encourage you to do the same! I hope this post has inspired you to schedule your own Vision Mission, start a dialogue with your eye doctor, and teach your kids about eye health!
Joint the conversation!
Download these Instagram Story templates and share your Vision Mission experience with your friends and family to inspire them too!