After 12 months of online learning and an increase in digital screen time, one Dubbo optometrist is urging parents to schedule an eye test ahead of the new school year.
Research by Specsavers in the Digital Eye Strain report has indicated that concern around children's screen time has risen by 10 per cent, compared to the same time last year.
It found that 86 per cent of parents expressed concern around the long-term effects of their child's screen time.
Dubbo Specsavers optometrist Yvonne O'Sullivan said the extended use of screens could have negative impacts on eye health.
"Staring at screens and being indoors for extended periods of time has been shown to increase the risk of myopia or becoming short-sighted," she said.
"This means the eyes focus well only on close objects, while more distant objects appear blurred."
"As children's eyes are still developing during their schooling years, it's important to identify any potential issues early so they can be corrected or managed."
While the last 12 months had seen an increase in unavoidable screen time due to COVID-19, research also found children were currently spending on average three hours on screens each day, which is triple the amount of time recommended by the World Health Organisation.
As primary and secondary school children prepare to head back into the classroom, Ms O'Sullivan said now was a great time for parents to schedule in an eye test.
"When kids are on phones and computers, it adds a significant demand on close vision, which can cause digital eye strain," she said.
"In a children's eye test, we typically look for signs of refractive error such as long and short sightedness and astigmatism. We also assess for signs and symptoms of digital eye strain, such as sore eyes and headaches, as well as other ocular health issues.
"If your child complains about headaches, blurred vision, trouble focusing or any other issues with their eyes, I recommend booking an appointment with an optometrist straight away rather than waiting until their next check-up."
Ms O'Sullivan said it was recommended that children of all ages get a routine eye test every two years, unless directed otherwise by their optometrist.
Top tips for screen time with kids:
- Remind your child to blink. This keeps the surface of your eyes from drying out.
- Keep a bottle of water close-by. Your eyes dry out when you're dehydrated so making sure your child is drinking plenty of water throughout the day is important!
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule. This means, every 20 minutes remind your child to shift their eyes to look at an object at least 20 metres away, for at least 20 seconds. The easiest way to do this is to take small 'window' breaks and look out at a faraway object to give their eyes a break from their screen.
- Make sure that during the school week, your children spend time playing outside or stepping away from the screen to do another activity to give their eyes a break.