What You NEED To Know About Your Kids Eyes and Screens

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Short sightedness, also known as Myopia is reaching epidemic proportions according to online magazine “Nature.com” and has doubled in the last half a century in the United States and Europe. 

Myopia is the elongation of the eyeball that results in losing clarity of sight over longer distance, or nearsightedness.  More technically Myopia occurs when the eyeball is too long, relative to the focusing power of the cornea and lens of the eye. This causes light rays to focus at a point in front of the retina, rather than directly on its surface.

Now, the last thing we want to do hear at School Mum is add pressure and stress to your life by giving you something else to worry about when raising your kids.  So we want emphasise the idea of increasing “awareness” about certain issues rather than increasing your level of “stress or anxiety”.

Eyesight is one of those things that may or may not be an issue for your kids in the years that they are in your care,  or even in their lifetime.  We are all different.  I’m 42 and still have pretty good eyesight with no need for glasses.  I put it down to eating a carrot every day, but that could just be another old wives tale.  My wife however is beginning to have issues with seeing over long distances which I put down to her incessant blogging, Facebooking and texting.  I keep telling her it’s much better for her health to spend more time focussing on me instead lol!

Here’s a few things to keep in mind when it comes to looking after one of your kids most important organs.

  1. Regular Check-ups:

Have their eyes checked each time they are taken to the doctors for a physical examination.  Most doctors will check your child’s eyesight when they go for a check-up, but just make sure they do. It’s the best starting point in being aware of the general health of their eyes.

  1. Control Screen-time:

Watch screens in short bursts.  It is important for kids to change their focal length regularly.  In other words get them to regularly change the distance of what they are focussing on.  Get them to change their focal point from a particular screen to looking across the room or around the room.  Tell them that changing from watching the iPad to watching the TV probably doesn’t count.

  1. Make sure your kids spend time outside:

One of the issues influencing the increase in Myopia is kids spending less time outside.  “After studying more than 4,000 children at Sydney primary and secondary schools for three years, they found that children who spent less time outside were at greater risk of developing myopia”. http://www.nature.com/news/the-myopia-boom-1.17120

For some more technical info read this:  “Based on epidemiological studies, Ian Morgan, a myopia researcher at the Australian National University in Canberra, estimates that children need to spend around three hours per day under light levels of at least 10,000 lux to be protected against myopia. This is about the level experienced by someone under a shady tree, wearing sunglasses, on a bright summer day. (An overcast day can provide less than 10,000 lux and a well-lit office or classroom is usually no more than 500 lux.) Three or more hours of daily outdoor time is already the norm for children in Morgan’s native Australia, where only around 30% of 17-year-olds are myopic. But in many parts of the world — including the United States, Europe and East Asia — children are often outside for only one or two hours.  http://www.nature.com/news/the-myopia-boom-1.17120

Some doctors associate an increase in myopia with the increased use of screens eg phones, tablets, computers and televisions although the evidence is not as conclusive as the research carried out around spending time indoors.

  1. Diet:

Give your kids meals with fruits, vegetables, nuts, and up to 12 ounces a week of fish. These foods contain key antioxidants and nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin, E, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and lutein, which are linked to eye health. (Buy fish such as salmon, shrimp, canned light tuna, catfish, or pollock. Young children should avoid shark, swordfish, mackerel, or tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.)  http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/protecting-child-eye-sight

  1. Kids and sunglasses:

Having just urged you to get your kids to spend more time outside, do they really need to wear sunglasses or is that just overkill??  You see some kids wearing sunglasses these days but still not that many compared to adults. Ultra violet light can damage our eyes as well as our skin. UV damage to your eyes is cumulative and long term, so early protection is essential. Your optometrist can advise on approved children’s sunglasses, especially for times like at the beach, at the snow or for prolonged play outdoors.  “There’s no firm evidence that children’s eyes are more susceptible to UV light than adults. But we do know the longer eyes are exposed without protection the more damage they accumulate from these harmful rays”,  Dr Michael Jones http://www.abc.net.au/health/talkinghealth/factbuster/stories/2012/03/27/3459094.htm. 

Kids need to shade their eyes in bright sunlight whether that is with a hat or sunglasses especially if their eyes are light in colour.

  1. Regular hand washing:

The easiest way to transfer bacteria like conjunctivitis to their eyes is to rub them when they have come in contact with the bacteria or virus.  So remind them to wash their hands regularly, especially at school, where that should be happening anyway as part of basic hygiene.  If they use contact lenses, never wet them in their mouth some bacteria that houses itself in the mouth can be spread to the eyes.

  1. Here’s a quick list of things that might tell you that your child is not seeing as well as they could:

  • Their eyes hurt or feel tired.
  • Writing looks blurry when they are reading.
  • They can’t see the board at school
  • Their eyes feel hot, or they sting or twitch.
  • They get headaches when they’ve been reading or writing for a while.
  • It’s hard for them to copy from the board.
  • They can’t tell the difference between some colours.
  • They keep losing their place when reading or copying.
  • They need the book close up to their eyes to be able to read it.
  • When they look up from their work everything looks blurred or misty.

http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetailsKids.aspx?p=335&np=152&id=1737

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