It’s that time again; new backpacks, new gym shoes, new supply lists that ask for a specific type of yellow folder that can’t be found anywhere (we know, we’ve all been there). Back-To-School is here, and we want to remind parents and guardians to do one more thing before you and your kids are completely immersed in the hectic pace of the school year: schedule their annual eye exam!
Let’s explore the impact of virtual learning on our children’s vision, why a school vision screening just isn’t enough, and how a comprehensive eye examination can help you keep your child’s vision in the best shape possible this school year.
Virtual Learning: Everything’s Visual
The past two school years saw an unprecedented increase in screen-based learning for nearly all school-age children. From remote learning to virtual field trips, children spent massive amounts of time in front of screens, both for learning and entertainment. And virtual means visual: while many in-person classroom activities can be hands-on, remote schooling is almost entirely screen-driven.
There’s really no sign that this trend is going to reverse. Even with most districts going back to in-person learning this fall, the digital aids that children as young as preschool have used at home are now being integrated into daily classroom routines.
These trends put children at increased risk of digital eye strain, discomfort, and blurry vision, and may fuel the growing rate of myopia (nearsightedness), a condition that could affect up to half of the population by 2050 according to the American Optometric Association (AOA).
With an increase in issues caused by extended screen time, we would like to emphasize the importance of identifying existing vision problems and conditions. An early diagnosis can lead to treatment and management methods that reduce the impact of vision problems on your child’s academic career.
Vision Screenings Aren’t Enough: Why School-Age Kids Need Full Eye Exams
Traditionally, schools rely on vision screenings to detect problems with children’s vision that affect school performance. However, with many students learning at home during the coronavirus pandemic, the vision screening schedule for schools has been delayed. And while at-home screenings have been developed (available online or through apps), these tools have yet to be evaluated for their effectiveness in detecting children’s vision problems.
School vision screenings tend to be most effective at identifying the presence of amblyopia (or lazy eye) and measuring visual acuity (the ability to discern detail and shape). Despite their benefits, vision screenings themselves aren’t enough; other vision problems that can hinder academic progress often go undetected, such as:
- Farsightedness (hyperopia)
- Eyes that turn inward or outward (disorders of convergence and divergence)
- Tracking issues
- Lack of focus during near work
- Difficulty fusing images into a 3-dimensional whole
Many of these vision problems manifest in ways that mimic behavioral issues, such as inattention and hyperactivity.
A comprehensive eye examination will test your child for a full range of conditions, including degrees and progression of myopia (a condition that’s on the rise thanks in part to increased screen use). An optometrist can identify issues and provide you with resources and tools to positively impact your child’s vision. Early detection and management of visual problems is essential for your child’s eye health and learning ability in the long term, from the school years on into adulthood.
How Often Should My Child Have an Eye Exam?
According to the AOA, children from ages 3 to 5 should have at least one full eye examination if they are at low risk for eye problems, or once yearly for individuals at a higher risk due to a family history of vision problems or other factors.
From ages 6 to 18, that recommendation changes to a yearly exam for all children and as often as recommended for those at high risk.
Uptown Eye Care’s Pediatric Specialists
With today’s increasing reliance on virtual learning environments, your child’s education depends on their vision more than ever before. Give them the best start possible this year with a comprehensive eye examination with one of our Board Certified pediatric optometry specialists.
Don’t wait until next year; contact Uptown Eye Care to schedule your child’s annual eye exam today!