We typically think the school year is the time to be concerned about children’s vision. We want them to see well in the classroom and be able to read and do homework comfortably. But summer brings outdoor activities and more free time which may be spent in front of electronic devices. So here are some suggestions for protecting a child’s eyes and vision during those warm and fun summer months.
Limit Device Use
At home and in car, there is a lot a lot of downtime. Do not let this time get filled in with device use by default. No matter how old your child is, they are at risk of eyestrain and related vision problems if they spend too much time on handheld devices such as phones, tablets, and video games. A recent study by the American Optometric Association showed 4 out of 5 kids report having tired or blurry eyes after device use. A good recommendation is to limit device use to no more than 20 minutes at a time, then at least a 5-minute break. And, yes, while reading doesn’t typically induce as much eyestrain as digital device use, scheduled breaks during an afternoon with that great summer book is also a good idea.
Sunglasses and sunscreen
Parents these days are great about protecting their kiddos from the sun. Keep in mind that this includes sunglasses. Just like skin can be sunburned, eyes can be sunburned with too much sunshine in one day. And even without sunburn, the UV and blue light from the sun can cause eye disease like cataracts and macular degeneration later in life. So make sure your kids have sunglasses that fit and they use them. More info about kids and UV can be found here from the CDC. And here is a cool infographic.
With all of the precautions needed for sun protection, it is tempting to just stay inside all the time. But that is a mistake, too. Many scientific studies have shown that children who spend more time outside are less likely to develop myopia (nearsightedness) than those that don’t. We do not entirely understand why, but much research shows it’s true. So if the kids are not outside for sports or in the pool, make sure the get some outside time in the form of a walk after dinner or walking the dog. More on this from myopiaprevention.org.
Sports glasses for sports
If your child plays any ball sports or full-contact sports, in many cases regular glasses can actually be more dangerous to wear because they are not designed to resist impact. Glasses can break and injure children. Read more about this at AllABoutVision.org.
Careful with pools
Speaking of eye protection, consider goggles for swimming. Public or water park pools may have high levels of chlorine. This can be irritating, causing red, light-sensitive eyes. And one awesome accessory for the glasses wearer who spends a lot of time at the beach or pool are prescription swim goggles. They are not expensive and come in a variety of prescriptions, colors, and sizes.
Stay safe and have fun this summer! School will be here before you know it.