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Posted on 08-14-2015

Back-to-school device advice

It's back-to-school time for children across the country.  Lately, that means loading up student backpacks with electronic devices, such as smart phones and tablets.  

Why comprehensive exams matter

As children become more frequent users of technology, parents need to be aware of the signs or symptoms of computer vision syndrome or other undiagnosed vision problems that indicate the need for an eye exam. The American Optometric Association warns that one in four children has an undiagnosed vision problem simply because they may not recognize that their eyesight isn't optimal or is changing.

"Comprehensive eye exams are one of the most important investments a parent can make to help maximize their child's education and contribute to overall health and well-being, especially since some vision problems may not have warning signs," Dr. Klonsky says. "Unfortunately, parents and educators often incorrectly assume that if a child passes a school screening, their vision is fine." 

Beginning in 2014, pediatric vision care will be one of the Affordable Care Act's Essential Health Benefits. This means millions of children will gain direct access to local optometrists for comprehensive eye exams and treatment, including medical eye care, through health insurance. 

These exams are more important than ever as students spend more and more time staring at screens each day.

According to the American Optometric Association's 2013 American Eye-Q® survey, 85 percent of parents indicate their children use an electronic device up to four hours per day. In addition, 41 percent of children have their own smartphone or tablet, and 32 percent use both e-books and textbooks at school.

Many patients will complain of blurry vision at distance, difficulty seeing the board or trouble focusing, which can actually be a near focusing problems, such as computer vision syndrome. 

Drs. Doyle and Greiss urge students to rest their eyes by following the 20-20-20 rule. When using technology, take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away. In addition, the AOA offers the following tips by grade level:

Preschool and Kindergarten: At home, little ones may play games on a tablet or smartphone, while at school they learn early lessons about how to use a computer. We suggest limiting tech time to two hours or less each day and increasing the font size to make it easier on eyes. During this stage, parents should be aware of physical signs of a potential vision problem. 

Elementary School: At this age, children continue to use smartphones, play with portable gaming devices, and spend hours on computers at school and home. Encourage kids to use cell phones only for quick tasks such as texting, and to position all devices half an arm's length away from the eyes and slightly below eye level. Children should also take frequent breaks and move around or change positions often while working on a computer. 

Middle and High School: With computers becoming a staple at school and for homework, along with increased smartphone usage, remind middle and high schoolers to position computers 20 to 28 inches away from their eyes, and to keep the top of the screen at eye level. When at home, kids should use ergonomic desk areas or gaming chairs. To prevent glare on screens, use low-wattage light bulbs or drapes in the room. And adjust brightness or background color settings on digital devices to keep vision comfortable. 

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