Summer is here!!!
When I was a kid, I remember the last day of school: cleaning out my desk and locker, saying goodbye to teachers, and heading home for months of freedom. Even though I enjoyed school, I enjoyed riding my bike, staying up late reading, and sleepovers any day of the week. In fact, a hallmark of summer was not really having to keep track of which day of the week it was, because it didn’t really matter.
(Take a hint from Phineas & Ferb - make the most of summer!)
For my kids and most kids these days, summer is a bit different. There is more structure. Today kids are less likely to roam free like I did as a kid. They are more likely to go to soccer camp one week and then science camp and guitar camp later.
Even if children don’t go to camps, the hobbies and habits of kids today are very different. They are more likely to play video games like Minecraft than marbles or jacks. When I asked one 12-year-old patient last fall what he did over the summer, he replied, “Watched YouTube on my phone.” It may not be obvious, but excessive use of digital devices is much harder on the eyes than playing board games or playing outside.
So with all these changes our children are facing, I thought it would be helpful to write up some helpful tips for children:
Limit Device Use
At home and in car, there is a lot a lot of downtime. Do not let this time get filled in with device use by default. No matter how old your child is, they are at risk of eyestrain and related vision problems if they spend too much time on handheld devices such as phones, tablets, and video games. A good recommendation is to limit device use to no more than 20 minutes at a time, then at least a 5-minute break. And, yes, it is possible to read too much, too, so this also is a good recommendation for books. I provide more information here.
Sunglasses and sunscreen
Unlike when I was a kid, parents are much better about protecting their kiddos from the sun. Keep in mind that this includes sunglasses. Just like skin can be sunburned, eyes can be sunburned with too much sunshine in one day. And even without sunburn, the UV and blue light from the sun can cause eye disease like cataracts and macular degeneration later in life. So make sure your kids have sunglasses that fit and they use them. More info about kids and UV can be found here from the CDC. And here is a cool infographic.
With all of the precautions needed for sun protection, it is tempting to just stay inside all the time. But that is a mistake, too. Many scientific studies have shown that children who spend more time outside are less likely to develop myopia (nearsightedness) than those that don’t. We do not entirely understand why, but much research shows it's true. So if the kids are not outside for sports or in the pool, make sure the get some outside time in the form of a walk after dinner or walking the dog. More on this from myopiaprevention.org.
Sports glasses for sports
If your child plays any ball sports or full-contact sports, in many cases regular glasses can actually be more dangerous to wear because they are not designed to resist impact. Glasses can break and injure children. Read more about this at AllABoutVision.org.
Careful with pools
Speaking of eye protection, consider goggles for swimming. You might keep your pool maintained properly, but not everyone does. And public or water park pools may have much higher levels of chlorine. This can be irritating, causing red, light-sensitive eyes. And one of the (unnecessarily) best kept secrets are prescription swim goggles. They are not expensive and come in a variety of prescriptions, colors, and sizes. Read more on our website.
Stay safe and have fun this summer! School will be here before you know it!
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care & Bright Eyes Kids