After an unconventional school year of virtual learning children are set to return to the classroom next month and, to start the school year off right, the Canadian Ophthalmological Society is reminding parents that children should be getting a back-to-school comprehensive eye exam. With a significant increase in screen time during the pandemic, one-third (34 per cent) of Canadians have experienced worsened eyesight, dry eye, or other eye health changes, according to a recent survey by the Canadian Ophthalmological Society.
“We’ve seen that prolonged screen time is a key factor in the increase of conditions such as myopia – including in children – so it’s important to closely monitor eyesight for any changes, even at a young age,” says Dr. Colin Mann, President of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society. “Given that vision plays a crucial role in academic success, maintaining good eye health should be a priority, and the start of the school year is a good time to have children’s eyes tested.”
Despite half of Canadians (49 per cent) who believe too much screen time can cause myopia (nearsightedness) in children and adults, the average hours spent on screen per day has increased overall since COVID-19 by more than an hour from 6.5 to 7.8 per day. The increase in screen time has been particularly pronounced for those aged 18-34. And while half (51 per cent) of respondents expect that their and their family’s screen time will decrease after the pandemic has eased, 37 per cent disagree with this statement.
In addition to getting regular eye exams, protecting children’s eyes is a good factor in maintaining eye health. This includes regularly wearing appropriate sunglasses to protect eyes against harmful UV rays. The majority of Canadians understand the importance of UV protection for children, yet a small portion of Canadians (9 per cent) believe that children do not need sunglasses as much as adults. Sun-related eye damage is very common in children because they have a clearer ocular lens which doesn’t provide as much protection to their retinas.
Parents can ensure they protect their child’s vision and maintain eye health by following these helpful tips:
- Sports/safety goggles: Eye protection should be top of mind during back-to-school sports and other activities. Sports goggles or safety goggles protect children’s eyes from flying balls or flying debris which can result in serious eye injuries.
- UV protection: Wearing the right sunglasses will give your child the ultimate protection. For UV rays look for 100%, or UV400, coverage. If it’s hard to get your child to wear sunglasses, the next best thing is a wide-brimmed hat or a baseball cap.
- Transition lenses: If your child wears prescription glasses, transition lenses are a good option. The convenience allows your child to wear one pair of glasses all day with the correct prescription, without having to worry about UV damage when they are outdoors.
- Regular eye exams: Eye examinations with your ophthalmologist or eye care professional is recommended every one or two years. Regular check-ups for children help promote early detection and treatment for vision problems and major eye diseases.
For more information and to do a quick online test designed to let you know quickly if there is a significant issue with your visual acuity, visit seethepossibilities.ca.
SOURCE Canadian Ophthalmological Society