Babies and younger children will learn more about the world through vision than from all their other senses combined. Good vision is important for a child’s educational, physical and social development.
Unfortunately, in Australia, one in five children suffer from undetected vision problems. When undetected, the effects of a vision condition can impact every aspect of a child’s life‚ from reading, schoolwork, sport and family relationships, to self-
esteem. It can lead to inaccurate labelling of children as slow learners, lacking confidence or even troublemakers.
This is one of the reasons why children should have a full eye examination before school, then throughout primary and high school. Vision checks are free in both Australia and New Zealand.
Today, more children than ever are at risk of developing poor vision through a variety of factors, including increased screentime and decreased green time.
Reading from a device, especially when done in close proximity to the screen for long periods, has a negative impact on the development of vision. Simply reading a picture book rather than on a screen increases play, social engagement, bonding between parent and child, imagination, literacy and safeguards vision.
“We have long campaigned for parents to consider the balance between screentime versus green time as part of safeguarding our children’s vision,” says chief clinical officer of Optometry Australia, Luke Arundel.
To protect a child’s vision, Luke recommends the 20/20/20 rule whether it’s time spent reading a book or on a digital device. “It is important to take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and look at an object at least 20 feet [six metres] away.”
Research suggests that spending two hours a day outside in bright light may also have a protective effect against the development of short-sightedness.
When sight issues are diagnosed, children may find wearing glasses difficult. Playing can be a problem as a child gets used to glasses, they may misplace them and find it hard to adjust to the changed vision. Children can also feel different to their peers, embarrassed and worry about teasing and even bullying.
Engaging them through picture books and story, such as my book, The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses, is a powerful way to understand vision, the impact of wearing glasses, acceptance by peers and promote play, whatever a child’s difference.
If your child has to wear glasses, remind them that their new glasses are giving them the gift of sight and wearing them allows them to play. Some children’s eyesight will correct, while others will wear glasses all their life.
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