Children, including pre-schoolers are spending more and more time on devices such as phones and tablets and studies have shown that excessive use can lead to a range of problems, one of which is poor eye health.
We use our eyes for everything we do throughout the day and there is a clear link between children’s performance at school and doing other activities such as sport, and their ability to see well.
Preventing damage and detecting problems early are vital to ensuring your child continues to see well.
What can a healthy eye do?
In order to have good eye health and visual skills, eyes need to be able to focus and shift focus up close and into the distance, coordinate with each other, track, and integrate visual information with other information from our other senses enabling us to understand what we are seeing.
Kids and screen time
A recent analysis of data from more than 5000 New Zealand preschoolers1 showed that at 2 years of age, children are using screens for an average of 1.5 hours a day and this increased to 2 hours at 3.75 years of age.
Evidence is emerging that older children and teens are using screens for more than 10 hours a day – this is a combination of school and personal use. Excessive use is linked to a whole range of health issues emerging including poor language development, weight gain, sleep problems and a range of eye issues.
Lutein and eye health
Like all of our body’s functions, good nutrition is an important input for keeping your eyes healthy.
A tiny but very important part of eyes is the macula – the central area of the retina which controls how sharp your vision is. It is believed that lutein along with other nutrients play a key role in the health of the macula. Further, these nutrients help block blue light from screen use from reaching into the retina, reducing the risk damage that could lead to macular degeneration (AMD). Luteine also works to protect the eyes from damage from free radicals.
Lutein can be found in a range of food including spinach, kiwifruit, grapes, eggs and broccoli or in a daily multivitamin that contains lutein.
Checking your child’s eyes
It is important that your child has regular eye examinations. When you child was born, they would have been screened for a range of serious eye conditions and your Well Child provider will also be conducting a series of checks. The B4 School Check also includes vision screening and then your child won’t be checked again until they are 11 or 12 years old (Year 7) and from then there is no routine checking.
You can keep an eye out for any signs that might indicate a problem. Signs include dislike of close up reading or closing one eye while reading, squinting, rubbing eyes, using a finger to keep place while reading, headaches and titling their head to one side. Make regular eye exams a part of your child’s healthcare schedule because it can be tricky to tell if they are developing an eye problem.
If you are at all concerned about your child’s vision, it’s important to get it checked. A subsidy for glasses and vision tests is available to some families.
Written by Robyn
Robyn creates content on Kidspot NZ. Her hobbies include buying cleaning products and wondering why things don’t then clean themselves, eating cheese scones with her friends, and taking her kids to appointments.
Favourite motto to live by: “It’s just a phase.”