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Mad River Eye Care

Children’s Vision and Back to School 2020

Sep 1, 2020

There is no question about it: our kids and teachers are facing new challenges with school this year that make back-to-school 2020 even more difficult than before. We’re here to help your children with their vision care needs! Dr. Mitchell has years of experience working with kids; he has four of his own (three wear glasses and contact lenses). We have a great selection of glasses for kids (you can shop our inventory online). Dr. Mitchell can help determine if your child is ready for contact lenses and will review options with you.

The back-to-school season is always a time to re-assess and prepare for a new chapter. Dr. Mitchell recommends that kids have an eye examination over the summer so they can be prepared to see as clearly as possible for learning. Much of the learning we do is heavily reliant on vision. If vision is difficult or blurry, learning can sometimes suffer.

Without question, back to school this year is a bit different. Depending on your school district, your child will be in varying environments and will likely be doing a lot more schooling on a computer or tablet. How does an increase in computer use influence children’s ability to perform academically and how could it influence development? Here are some ways we can expect our children’s vision to be impacted this year.

Near work

Near work is nothing new in our schooling. However, this year, many districts expect kids will be at their desks more when they are at school, and when they are not, they will be on a device. For young, impressionable eyes, lots of near work makes myopia or nearsightedness much more likely to develop and can cause greater degrees to develop. This has been studied extensively over the past few decades, and we are seeing that in addition to genetics, our environment has a big impact on how our vision develops.

How our eyes work on screens

When we are working on screens, we blink about ⅓ less often than we should. This can cause the surface of our eyes to dry which can lead to discomfort, strain, and fatigue of our eyes. These issues affect everyone, young and old. For kids, this discomfort or “screen fatigue” can be hard for them to describe, but it can lead to an aversion to near work and influence their ability to stay focused and concentrated.

How do screens influence our eyes?

One of the biggest factors with using screens is constant exposure to high-energy wavelengths of blue light. We are exposed to this type of blue light from almost every light source we encounter, but screens create a very direct and concentrated exposure. Research shows that blue light exposure causes our eyes to strain more. Blue light can also influence our circadian rhythms and make it harder for us (and children especially) to settle down at the end of the day. There is a possibility that blue light over our lifetime may influence other health factors like the development of macular degeneration or cataracts later in life.

So what do we do with this new difficult approach to school?

First off, if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s vision, they should have an eye examination to get an accurate assessment of eye health and vision status and personalized recommendations for how to address any issues.

  • Near work: Let’s be honest, we can’t avoid near work, but taking frequent breaks for our eyes is important. Several studies suggest that our eyes should take a break about every 20 minutes from near work. A break for our eyes means focusing on something farther away for 20 or 30 seconds. Our eyes relax when they are looking far away. Frequent breaks can help avoid fatigue and limit strain on young eyes. Taking frequent breaks is a good starting point for alleviating eye strain and combating the development of nearsightedness. If kids are developing nearsightedness, I usually recommend special glasses or contact lenses for myopia management that will limit how much work the eyes have to do for near tasks.
  • Screens: See the break recommendation for near work. Our eyes were not designed and are not well suited for long hours on a screen. As far as blue light, again, some exposure is normal, but long exposure is problematic. Glasses that block blue light can be worn to prevent the blue light from getting to the eyes. Many non-prescription varieties that are advertised have a yellow or amber tint to them. I prescribe an antiglare treatment on lenses that reduces glare from screens and other lights and blocks the blue light. You may be able to find blue light filters that fit on the screen, and some devices have a setting that can adjust the color to reduce the amount of blue light emitted.

Lots of near work (desk, reading, and near focusing), and lots of screen time can have some negative impacts on children’s eyes over time. They can experience eye strain, eye fatigue, headaches, and dry eyes. These effects can make it hard for some kids to stay focused (visually and mentally), and they can develop an aversion or reluctance to do near tasks. Some kids can develop nearsightedness or increase nearsightedness with consistent near work. We know the light emitted from most screens can exacerbate all these effects. See our recent blog post on screen vision challenges for more details. Call our office to schedule an eye exam for your kids!

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Medical Eye Care

Dr. Mitchell has extensive experience diagnosing and treating acute and chronic eye health...