Cincinnati Family Magazine

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June 17, 2024

Does Your Kid Need Glasses?

Kids are on screens all day long and vision issues are part of the result. Here’s how to help.

Maybe. Especially if there’s a family history of vision issues.

As far as YOUR eyes can see, your child is developing just beautifully. But a family history of vision issues means you should be watchful for signs that there could eventually be a sight issue for your child. Add that to the fact that school kids are on screens all day long and it should double your diligence.

“Nearsighted and farsighted is a kind of refractive error and can be normal at any age,” says Sandra K. Brook, OD, a pediatric optometrist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati.

“The need for glasses depends on what level of refractive error is present and what vision demands the child has; most babies are farsighted and farsighted typically becomes less as the eye grows. Nearsightedness is common in grade school,” Brook says.

The other thing common in school is the use of laptops, tablets and other devices and this adds to what could be a progressive vision issue.

“We don’t want our children to not have access to technology, but setting time boundaries on screen time is beneficial,” Brook says. “Additionally, taking breaks with extended near work and having a working distance greater than 12 inches is recommended,” she adds.

There are plenty of eyesight conditions that can affect a growing child’s ability to see clearly including lazy eye (amblyopia, a neural developmental vision condition that means one eye or both aren’t linking properly to the brain); far-sightedness (hyperopia) that causes close-up objects to be blurry; and near-sightedness (myopia) that causes distant objects to be hard to see. Regular vision screenings — such as at a well-child visit —can detect these things.

“Regular vision screenings with the pediatrician are important as the child ages,” Brook says. “Usually, a vision screening every couple of years is appropriate, unless there are specific concerns/complaints, then a complete eye exam is indicated,” she adds.

CONCERNS AND COMPLAINTS

With kids, vision issues can sneak up on them without their realizing it. They will adjust as need be, even without telling you. So if vision screenings are missed for some reason, you’re left to your own devices to try and sleuth out what’s going on with your child.

“School-age children may complain that their vision is blurred, possibly stating that the board at school is hard to see,” Brook says. “They may also complain about tired eyes, headaches or may even lose their place while reading,” she adds.

Kids on devices at school and at home can exhaust young eyes without their realizing it. Brook says research shows that excessive screen time may cause an increase in axial length of the eye which typically leads to myopia, the most common vision issue for kids. Experts agree that the myopia rates among children are rising, and yes, that it’s related to focusing on screens.

“There is a normal amount of nearsighted progression from year to year as a child ages,” Brook says. “And there is evidence that special design contact lenses (daytime and nighttime) and nightly eye drops are helpful in lessening progression over time.”

Since screen use won’t be going away, parents are smart to pay attention to the cues in their kids that vision issues may be developing.

Signs Your Child May Need Vision Correction

  • Doing poorly in school
  • Inability to concentrate on reading and writing tasks
  • A family history with myopia, hyperopia and amblyopia
  • Sitting too closely to an object
  • • Reluctancy to focus on near tasks
  • Squinting
  • Frequent headaches

About the Author

Amanda Hayward

Amanda Hayward is editor of this publication. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, and a mom of three with one on the way. If she's not writing for Cincinnati Family, you'll find her running, juggling kids, teaching group fitness classes and cooking up healthy recipes.