Optometrist Julie Forister was visiting South Coast Botanic Gardens with her family one day this summer. The mom of three was glad her 2-year-old daughter wasn’t interested in the Pokémon Go Takeover event that had taken over the lovely space – but that wasn’t the case for everyone.
“Everybody was staring at their phone instead of looking at the pretty flowers in the garden,” Forister says. Now that the school year is underway, mobile screens are just one reason you should make time for an eye exam for your child.
Forister and her partner at Eye Care Riviera Optometric Group in Torrance, Shirley Hong, recommend annual eye check-ups for all children. The exam is especially important if your child wears glasses. “As children grow and their eyes are changing, their prescription will change,” says Hong, mother of two.
The new school year is when many kids’ eye problems come to light. “Most parents don’t notice anything until the teacher mentions something,” says Forister, adding that behavior problems are often a sign your child needs an eye exam. “If they can’t see in class, they’re getting bored, and then they’re causing trouble.”
Also, watch for signs such as:
- Turning the head to one side,
- Tilting the head,
- Closing one eye,
- Avoidance of reading, and
- Eye rubbing or discharge from the eye.
And as homework kicks in and screen time ramps up, teach your child the American Optometric Association’s 20-20-20 rule. When using a tablet, computer or smart phone, pause every 20 minutes to look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. “It relieves and relaxes your focusing system,” Hong says. “You wouldn’t go to the gym and work out four hours without taking any breaks. [Treat your] eye muscles the same way.”
If your child wears glasses, you might also consider spending an extra $20-$30 for “blue blocker” coating to help block the blue light from computer and device screens, which can cause eye strain and disrupt sleep. Even if Pokémon goes, screens won’t, so it’s a worthwhile investment.
“Even my youngest one, [who is 1½],” says Hong, “knows how to use my cell phone.”