August, when students head back to school, is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month and the ideal time to ensure their vision is reading-ready. Long hours with a book, computer, and chalkboard each day can put a strain on even the youngest eyes – because when a child is focused on learning, it is easy to lose focus on preventing eye strain. Whether in the classroom or on a computer doing virtual learning, students can take simple steps to keep their eyes comfortable during the school day. Remind your student to do the following:
- Sun’s up, phone’s down. Youngsters with cellphones are known to be quite attached to their devices, but there is no need to reach for them the moment the morning alarm sounds. Reduce eye strain by providing children an hour of phone-free time to gently acclimate their eyes as they wake up. Give them 10 minutes to check messages before the school day begins.
- Dim the lights. Lower the screen brightness to a level that is just bright enough to allow the student to easily read the screen. Comfortable light goes a long way toward reducing eye strain and fatigue.
- Set up screens for small people. When using a computer, lower the laptop or monitor, or raise the student’s chair so (s)he must look slightly down to see it (remember, most students are shorter than the adults). This keeps their eyes from being wide open all day and drying out.
- Follow the 20/20/20 rule. Your student’s eyes need frequent breaks from close- up computer monitors and papers. Teachers and parents can build these into their instruction a few times each hour. Every 20 minutes, have them focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It may be helpful to stand up and stretch as well.
- Blink in sync. Blinking keeps our eyes moistened, reducing the irritation caused by dry eyes. To break students out of an eye-drying zombie stare, train them to coordinate their blinking with something that occurs frequently, such as reading or typing any punctuation, or seeing or hearing any word containing the letter “e.”
- Recharge. A good night’s sleep is practically the cure for all ills and eye ills are no exception. Adequate shuteye makes eyes less prone to strain and dryness. As a general rule of thumb, set a bedtime that allows for at least 9 hours for kindergarten through 5th-grade students; tweens and teens should get at least 8 hours. Bonus tip: Encourage children to use a sleep mask. This covering blocks out ambient light that could disrupt sleep. It has the added benefit of keeping eyes from opening part-way in their sleep and drying out.
- Be a good sport. Protect students from injury during sports with the appropriate protective eyewear. Football, basketball, and baseball pose the greatest risk of eye injuries from colliding players and a ball in play. The coach can offer advice on what protection is best for the sport and athletes.
More important than all this is to stay up to date with routine eye exams. Summertime is the ideal time for an annual checkup to detect nearsightedness/farsightedness, vision loss, or misalignment. Then if prescription eyeglasses become necessary, your child will have them in time to fully participate in learning.
An eye doctor from the knowledgeable, highly experienced team at Matossian Eye Associates would be happy to examine your student’s eyes. Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor at your convenience by calling us at (800) 708-8800 or with online scheduling at https://www.matossianeye.com/contact-us.