Back-to-School Checklist: Backpack, Computer, Wireless Access... and a Comprehensive Eye Exam

July 30, 2013

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - Jul 30, 2013) - Computers and smartboards are a common staple in today's classrooms, but with programs like "bring your own device" (BYOD) to school, smartphones and tablets are also seeing increased use in schools. According to the American Optometric Association's (AOA) 2013 American Eye-Q® survey, 85 percent of parents indicate their children use electronic devices up to four hours per day.

Frequent, prolonged use of technology can lead to a temporary condition called computer vision syndrome, or CVS. Symptoms may include eye strain, headaches, fatigue, burning or tired eyes, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain. To rest eyes, students should follow the 20-20-20 rule -- take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away.

As the use of electronic devices increases, particularly among school-aged children, eye doctors are providing tips to help ward off CVS and warning signs for parents and teachers to be on the lookout for that could indicate a child has an undiagnosed vision problem or is experiencing CVS:

  • Preschool/Kindergarten: Limit tech time to two hours or less and increase screen font size. Parents should also watch for:
    • Excessive blinking or eye rubbing when children do near work
    • Difficulty recognizing colors, shapes, letters and numbers
  • Excessive blinking or eye rubbing when children do near work
  • Difficulty recognizing colors, shapes, letters and numbers
  • Elementary School: Encourage kids to use smartphones only for quick tasks such as texting, and to position devices half an arm's length away -- slightly below eye level. At this age, parents should ask children:
    • Do words "swim" on a screen or in a book or do they lose their place frequently when reading?
    • Does my child experience frequent headaches during the school week or while performing near work?
  • Do words "swim" on a screen or in a book or do they lose their place frequently when reading?
  • Does my child experience frequent headaches during the school week or while performing near work?
  • Middle/High School: Remind students that computers should be positioned 20 to 28 inches away from their eyes, with the top of the screen at eye level. Background settings on smartphones should be adjusted to keep vision comfortable. To stay involved with children's vision, parents should ask:
    • How long can my child read before they need to take a visual break?
    • Does my child perform with a lowered level of comprehension?
  • How long can my child read before they need to take a visual break?
  • Does my child perform with a lowered level of comprehension?

The AOA recommends that a child's first eye exam take place at six months of age, then at age three, again before kindergarten and yearly thereafter. To find an optometrist in your area, or for additional information on children's vision and the importance of back-to-school eye exams, please visit www.aoa.org.