After two years during which the pandemic has led to increased time spent indoors performing “near-work” activities on phones and other devices, more adult patients are considering a comprehensive eye exam after noticing changes in their eye health. But what about children?

As eye care professionals (ECPs), we know that vision disorders among children are a common pediatric health problem in Canada – nearly one in four school-aged children have a vision problem, and myopia is becoming a prominent epidemic. With October being National Children’s Vision Month, awareness-raising and prevention are crucial.

Let’s examine some common myths about children’s eye health.

Myth #1
Parents would know if their child had a vision issue.

Many vision problems have no external signs, and many serious eye conditions have no obvious symptoms. Myopia among children increased by 1.3 to 3 times in 2020 compared to the previous five years. Early intervention is essential because conditions such as amblyopia (a.k.a. “lazy eye”) need to be addressed when a child is young.

Let’s also remind our community that undetected and untreated vision problems can interfere with a child’s ability to learn in school – with 80% of learning being visual – but also affect every aspect of a child’s development (motor, language and social skills; imitation and repetition).

Myth #2
School tests report 20/20 vision, so everything is fine

We must remind the public that a comprehensive eye exam is much more than just an eye-chart test at school – it is essential for ensuring optimal vision and development. Parents and caregivers should be encouraged to have children regularly visit an optometrist as infants and toddlers before entering school, and annually thereafter.

Also, it is always good to mention that the eye exam cost for children is covered by many provinces.


Myth #3
Limiting screen time is enough

Screen time recommendations vary from infants to school-aged children. Other tips like an adequately positioned computer screen to prevent eye strain, eye-friendly rooms, regular breaks, and the20-20-20 rule all contribute to protecting children’s eye health.

Outdoor activities also help kids develop their full potential. An increase of about 76 minutes per day is needed to obtain a 50% reduction in myopia in children. However, while encouraging sports rain or shine, ECPs should remind parents that protective eyewear can not only prevent eye injury, but also improve performance!

While examining patients and outlining prevention for their next of kin, Children’s Vision Month can be a great opportunity to increase awareness of children’s eye health and vision care … all year long.