Back to school with healthy eyes
Six simple tips for parents and teachers
By Dr. Giovanna Olivares, OD, FAAO; Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Director & Staff Writer
As parents and teachers, it’s all about giving children the things they need to have a fun and successful school year. One important and likely underrated aspect of this is their eye health. As Stanford University professor and development economist Scott Rozelle states, correcting vision “is the single most effective health intervention when it comes to improving academic performance.” This is supported by the finding that 80% of what children learn in their first 12 years comes from visuals1.
In this blog post, we'll share simple tips to help nurture healthy eyesight in children as they get ready to head back to school.
1. Get regular eye exams
Kids that can’t see well may get bored, act out, and could even be misdiagnosed with learning or behavioral disorders. The vision screening typically done at school is only capable of detecting certain kinds of vision issues, and it’s reported that up to 75% of them miss vision problems altogether. Regular comprehensive eye exams can check for any current vision problems or those that can develop as they grow, like myopia.
2. Create a vision-friendly environment
Set up a comfortable study area, which can take some customizing based on the child. Comfortable lighting is top priority. Too bright can strain the eyes, as can too dim. The same goes for screen brightness, if the student is using a digital device. Try to match the brightness to the surroundings. Finally, ensure their reading distance is adequate. Computer screens should be viewed from at least 20 inches away.
3. Encourage healthy digital habits
Remind children to take breaks from screens every 20 minutes (we know, this can be a challenge) and encourage a balance between screen time and outdoor activities. Research shows that two or more hours a day outside can help reduce the onset of myopia or slow its progression.2
4. Provide eye-healthy foods
Yes, certain foods support healthy eyesight and eye development. Those foods include fruits, vegetables, and foods rich in vitamins A, C, and E in their meals like carrots, spinach, and citrus fruits.
5. Protect Their Eyes
When students play outside, such as during recess, encourage wearing sunglasses to shield from harmful UV rays. If they’re playing sports through school or in a recreational league, be sure to protect their eyes when necessary, by wearing protective gear.
6. Watch for warning signs
It can sometimes be hard to spot the signs of eye issues, but some things to look out for are frequent headaches, squinting, or rubbing eyes. If you notice any concerns, consult an eye doctor.
Healthy eyes are essential for a successful school year. By following these simple tips, parents and teachers can support children's eye health and ensure a comfortable and safe learning experience.
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- Jensen, E. (2008). Brain Based Learning: The New Science Of Teaching and Training. San Diego, The Brain Store.
- Wu PC, Chen CT, Lin KK, et al. Myopia Prevention and Outdoor Light Intensity in a School-Based Cluster Randomized Trial. Ophthalmology 2018;125:1239-50.