Children’s Eye Health

  • BY Lainie Petersen

Parents not only need to be aware of their own need for regular eye exams and eye protection, they also need to look out for their children’s eye health as well. While pediatricians and schools do their part to provide eye exams, eye health also requires day-to-day care, including  providing eye protection for children when they play out in the sun or are engaged in sports. Parents can also be on the lookout for possible signs that a child is having eye issues, such as continually getting up too close to a monitor screen, eye rubbing, or complaining of headaches.



Eye Exams

Like adults, children should have regular eye exams to ensure that they are able to see properly and to detect any unusual symptoms. The medical community generally recommends that children undergo a series of eye exams from the time they are born until they enter school.

(Once they are in school, they may be offered routine vision and hearing screenings that can help identify any problems.)

While pediatricians and family practitioners are certainly capable of performing routine eye exams, children with vision problems may benefit from seeing a pediatric ophthalmologist, a medical doctor who specializes in children’s eye health.


Vision Problems and Learning Problems and Disabilities

One significant concern for parents and educators is the possibility that vision issues may have a negative impact on a child’s academic performance. While there is no direct link between eye problems and learning disabilities (neurological conditions that inhibit a person’s ability to learn), a child’s vision problems may make it hard for a child to learn to read, write or identify shapes and colors. If a child has an uncorrectable vision problem, medical and educational experts can make recommendations for rehabilitative services.


Eye Protection for Children

Contrary to popular belief, neither sitting too close to the television or reading in poor light will damage a child’s eyes, though both activities can cause eye strain, which can be uncomfortable.

(Sitting very close to a television screen or computer monitor may be a sign that a child is having vision problems, however, and he or she should see an eye doctor.)

Parents and caretakers should instead be concerned about two real threats to children’s eye health:  Sun damage and sports injuries.

  • Ultraviolet light causes damage to the retina and this damage is cumulative, so protecting young eyes against sunlight is very important, particularly since UV rays have an easier time penetrating children’s eyes. Kid’s sunglasses come in many different styles and are suitable for wearing on sunny days.  Parents of children who wear prescription eyeglasses should ensure that eyewear retailers treat the lenses with an anti-UV coating.  (Zenni treats all the lenses it sells with this coating, free!)
  • Children who play sports should wear protective goggles or some other form of eye protection.
  • Since children are often very active, it’s important that parents and eyewear professionals select accessories, lenses and treatments that can reduce the risk of injury and breakage. Children’s glasses should be securely attached to their heads with a strap. (Some glasses actually come with attached straps.) Polycarbonate lenses are shatter-resistant and anti-scratch coating can also keep glasses in good shape and prevent the need for constantly replacing scratched lenses.