LATROBE Valley optometrists are calling for parents to book an eye test during this early part of the school year.
Following the events of the last 12 months, optometrists are harbouring concerns about digital eyestrain caused by an increase in screen time.
Fresh research by Specsavers has indicated that, in comparison to last year, concern around children’s screen time has risen by 10 per cent.
Additionally, 86 per cent of parents expressed concern about the long-term effects of their child’s screen time.
According to Specsavers, the average child spends three hours on screens each day – triple what is recommended by the World Health Organisation.
“When kids are on phones and computers, it adds a significant demand on close vision, which can cause digital eye strain. Staring at screens and being indoors for extended periods of time has been shown to increase the risk of myopia or becoming short-sighted,” Traralgon Specsavers optometrist Josie Mills said.
“The eyes are designed for looking in the distance, not close up for long periods of time… in susceptible children, when they do look close up for long periods of time sometimes that can cause their eye to change sizes and to become short sighted.
“If your child complains about headaches, blurred vision, trouble focusing or any other issues with their eyes, I recommend booking an appointment with an optometrist straight away rather than waiting until their next check-up.”
Other indicators may be things such as frequently rubbing of the eyes, squinting, changes in the way they look at screens or books, and having too look at things really closely.
Ms Mills explained that having poor eyesight can impact children’s engagement and enjoyment at school.
“If they’re not seeing the work on the board, in their books and on screens, it can really interrupt their concentration… if they start getting headaches then it can make them feel unwell and they might not want to be at school. So it will disengage them from their learning somewhat,” she said.
Ms Mills’ top tips for children’s screen time:
1) Remind your child to blink. This keeps the surface of your eyes from drying out.
2) Keep a bottle of water close-by. Your eyes dry out when you’re dehydrated so making sure your child is drinking plenty of water throughout the day is important.
3) Follow the 20-20-20 rule. This means, every 20 minutes remind your child to shift their eyes to look at an object at least 20 metres away, for at least 20 seconds. The easiest way to do this is to take small ‘window’ breaks and look out at a faraway object to give their eyes a break from their screen.
4) Make sure that during the school week, your children spend time playing outside or stepping away from the screen to do another activity to give their eyes a break.
It is recommended that children of all ages have an eye test every two years for a general
check-up, unless otherwise directed by an optometrist.
To book your appointment or for more information, visit https://www.specsavers.com.au/stores