It’s time to head back to school, and whether that means in-person or onscreen, a child’s eyes may undergo an increased amount of strain, leading to changes adults may need to look out for. Their normal growth this year may also have impacted their overall eye health.
For Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, we’re sharing things to keep in mind to protect their vision.
Staring at a computer or phone screen for too long can contribute to both dry eye and eyestrain in grownups, according to a 2017 article from Harvard Health. And several popular sources (Wired, The Atlantic, and Best Life for example) also warn against excessive screen time.
The same is true for kids. In 2017, the Canadian Association of Optometrists and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society released a position statement that reports kids are likely even more at risk from screen exposure, as their eyes are still developing.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends taking breaks for everyone, “using the ‘20-20-20’ rule: every 20 minutes. Shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.”
Getting outside and utilizing larger screens (such as a bigger monitor or casting to your television) are two other suggestions from Today’s Parent that may provide some screen relief.
Believe it or not, giving kids sunglasses could make a big difference. In 2019, Time magazine published a comprehensive article about the threat ultraviolet rays can pose to our eyes, and children are not an exception.
“It doesn’t matter how dark they are or the color of the lenses,” Dr. Rebecca Taylor, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology says in the article. “The most important thing is that the sunglasses block 99 to 100% of UVA and UVB rays.”
It may feel like a challenge to coax a kid into wearing sunglasses, but there are a few things adults can do. The Mayo Clinic recommends letting them choose their pair, having an adult keep them safe, and modeling by example to name a few.
There’s a clear connection between diet, nutrition, and healthy eyes. Harvard Health offers a thorough breakdown of the nutrients that can promote healthy vision, including vitamin C and zinc.
Most of the foods they recommend for eye health are good for developing little bodies, too, including:
- Rich greens (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and spinach)
- Fruits (apricots, cantaloupe, and mangos)
- Seeds and nuts (flaxseed, almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts)
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna)
Like wearing sunglasses, convincing a child to eat healthy may feel like an uphill battle, but introducing autonomy and choice could help your cause. “Kids are more likely to give a new food a try if they have had a hand in making it,” Rasmussen University advises. “Basic tasks like measuring ingredients, stirring a bowl or tossing a salad are all great starting points.”
Making annual eye exams part of a child’s regular health routine will also arm everyone with information, and help children understand that taking care of their eyes is as important as taking care of their teeth and body. We’re also happy to help them choose just the right pair of glasses. For an appointment or to answer your questions, reach out online or call 404-351-2220.