Did you know that many children become nearsighted or farsighted between the ages of 6 and 12? Young children are susceptible to vision problems, hurting their ability to see the world around them clearly while their minds are still developing. That’s why the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that parents have their children’s eyes checked early in life: first, at 6-12 months of age, then 12-36 months, 3-5 years and continuing as they grow older.
With today’s perpetual rise in excessive screen time and digital media usage, checking your child’s eyesight has become increasingly important — just as important as limiting digital interactions to protect their eyes in the first place. Knowing the signs, symptoms, and behaviors to look for is key to determining if your child may be having vision problems.
Signs Your Child May Need Glasses
Obvious things like squinting are always going to be important to watch for, but other behaviors like covering one eye, or symptoms like frequent headaches are also negative effects to look out for. Here are some helpful signs that may indicate that your child needs glasses:
Squinting may be a sign your child is having trouble focusing on an image, which temporarily improves when he or she squints. This is a common sign of both nearsightedness and farsightedness, and a sign it may be time to visit the eye doctor.
Tilting Head or Covering One Eye
This type of behavior could indicate that your child has strabismus or amblyopia, commonly referred to as a lazy eye, a very common eye disorder in children, and one which can cause a great deal of eye strain.
Holding Digital Devices or Smartphones Close to Their Eyes
This goes hand-in-hand with sitting too close to the TV, and could be a sign your child has nearsightedness — trouble seeing objects clearly when they’re at a distance. Minimizing screen use and digital exposure, or reducing the number of hours of TV they can watch is a great way to help proper eye development.
Dry Eyes or Frequent Eye Rubbing
This could indicate that your child’s eyes are strained or suffering from eye fatigue. Excessive rubbing has the potential to cause additional harm as well, so parents will want to pay attention to this symptom.
Headaches or Eye Pain
This could be caused by your child overexerting his or her eyes in an attempt to bring items into better focus. With our digital age, it may be easy to attribute this to device usage, but it’s important to consider that it may be a more generalized condition of overworked young eyes in need of corrective support.
Difficulty Focusing on Schoolwork
Difficulty adjusting focus from distant objects such as a whiteboard or chalkboard to nearer objects such as textbooks can create challenges for kids when trying to stay focused in class.
Why Children May Need Glasses
Paying attention to the signs and causes that children may need glasses is important, and knowing the benefit you can provide them from correcting their vision ailments can help parents be proactive about getting children the help they need. According to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology & Strabismus, there are 4 main reasons why children may need glasses:
- Improving vision, which helps a child function better in his or her environment
- Straightening crossed or misaligned eyes (strabismus)
- Strengthening vision of a weak or “lazy” eye
- Protecting vision in one eye if the other has poor vision
Getting the Proper Tests
So what’s next? Getting the proper tests will help determine whether your child may be suffering from vision issues, or if their symptoms could be related to another cause. There are two main types of vision tests, which are explained by the Texas Children’s Hospital:
A short screening that’s often conducted by a school nurse or pediatrician to check for possible vision problems. A follow-up visit to an optometrist or an ophthalmologist may be needed if any issues are detected.
Comprehensive Eye Exam
Conducted by your eye care provider in about 60 to 90 minutes to determine the nature of a vision problem and start proper treatment.
Picking Out Glasses
Choosing frames and picking out glasses is important to a child and can influence how they’ll react to wearing their glasses. Consider these tips from the University of Utah Health to help make the process easier:
Talk to Your Child Before You Go
Setting the stage by reading a book about getting glasses, explaining the benefits (such as seeing those video games even better!) and talking about cool characters that wear glasses.
Plan the Right Time
Setting a special day aside to shop for frames and check out all the available shapes and colors. Make sure you time it so your child isn’t tired or hungry.
When you and your child pick up his or her glasses, stress that wearing them might take a bit of adjustment.
How can you help if your child refuses to wear his or her glasses? Verywellhealth.com points out common issues and provides suggestions on how to help your child:
Self-Consciousness and Negative Comments
Talk to your child’s teacher so he or she can be aware of any negative comments or bullying directed toward your child. He or she can encourage your child.
If glasses don’t fit just right, they won’t be comfortable to wear. Have the fit checked to make sure they’re not too tight or too loose.
Getting glasses isn’t just a one-and-done type of experience. Your child’s vision is likely to change over time, so regular vision check-ups are needed. In addition, your child’s glasses need to be checked to make sure they’re properly sized and are still fitting well.
Children are utilizing electronic devices more than ever before, from the tablets they use for school to the laptops they use to talk to their grandparents on Zoom. Even though this type of technology has some benefits, it leads to your child’s eyes being exposed to the potential harmful effects of blue light for hours on end. Limit screen time for your child, and consider looking at a pair of blue light protection glasses as classrooms have adjusted to online learning (we recommend GUNNAR glasses!).