The end of term is just around the corner, and many mums are busy planning activities, so they don't have to listen to complaints of being bored for two weeks. It is timely to remember that damage to children's eyes is caused by a number of different factors, and the activities you plan may be a contributor to impaired eyesight in the future. Keep these two tips in mind as you finalise your holiday plans.
Protection from the sun
Australians are well aware that sunburn can lead to skin cancers later in life. It's easy to remember to slip, slop, slap, but are your kids protecting their eyes when they are playing outside? The two ways to protect your children's eyes during school holiday outdoor activities are:
- enforce the wearing of a wide-brimmed hat as it provides shade over the eyes, and
- encourage the wearing of sunglasses.
Some children like sunglasses, but others hate the feeling of the arms over their ears. At the very least a hat must be worn to protect their delicate eyes from the sun. Children are more susceptible to eye damage by sunlight because their eyes are not fully developed yet, so their retinas are easily damaged.
It is also timely to remember that not all eye damage happens while your kids are outside.
Protection from electronic devices
Research studies are underway on the impact of children spending too much time on phones, tablets and computers while they play games and watch videos. Dry eye is one condition that is a problem when children are exposed to electronic devices for too long. The condition develops because the child continuously stares at the screen and don't take the same number of breaks as adults do when they feel eye strain.
Limit the amount of time your children spend looking at electronic screens over the holiday break. Get them to take a 10-minute break every half hour. Even better, try to limit their total daily time on electronics to no more than three hours. The rest of the time they should play with non-screen toys or head outside for some fresh air. Interestingly, while your child's eyes need protection from sun damage, they also need some exposure to sunlight for eye development.
If you have any concerns about your child's eyes, the school holidays are also a good time to get an appointment with your local optometrist to discuss your worries.