Digital takeover: 5 stats that reinforce back-to-school exams
"Each year when school starts, we see an increase in kids complaining of symptoms synonymous with eye strain."
Summer vacation likely wasn't a break from electronic devices for many kids, but as school gets back in session, it's blue light—not sunlight—that will sparkle in students' eyes. And that's all the more reason for a back-to-school eye exam.
This year's AOA Ready-for-School public awareness campaign has circulated nationwide since July, promoting the necessity of such exams and pairing it with results from recent AOA surveys that show a stark contrast between parents' and kids' perceptions of digital device use.
"Each year when school starts, we see an increase in kids complaining of symptoms synonymous with eye strain," stated Lori Roberts, O.D., chair of the AOA's New Technology Committee, in the campaign. "Essentially, they're going from being home over the summer with a minimal amount of time spent using their devices back to a classroom full of technology, and their time on devices often doubles, leading to a strain on the eyes."
Digital devices take a toll
The Ready-for-School campaign includes materials that give recommendations for avoiding digital eye strain, including the 20-20-20 rule while using screens: Take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and fixate vision on something 20 feet away.
But do parents, and for that matter students, know these recommendations? According to results of the AOA's 2014 American Eye-Q and a children's omnibus survey, the integration of technology into the classroom gives more of a reason for children to get an eye exam, because:
- Kids are digitally connected longer than parents think. Eighty-three percent of children report using an electronic device more than 3 hours daily, while only 40 percent of parents think their kids exceed that mark; furthermore, 42 percent of kids report 5 hours of use or more versus only 10 percent of parents that think the same thing;
- All that time can cause eye problems. Eighty percent of children report their eyes have burned, itched, felt tired or had blurry vision after using an electronic device;
- Kids aren't taking appropriate breaks. Students aren't following the 20-20-20 rule—14 percent report taking a visual break from their device every 20 minutes. A third of kids report taking breaks every few hours or not at all;
- Most learning happens visually. An estimated 75 to 90 percent of all classroom learning happens through visual pathways—nearly all tasks a child performs depend on good vision;
- More could be done to get kids in the exam chair. Almost a third of parents report a child should be 3 years or older before visiting the eye doctor for his or her first comprehensive eye exam, while another 28 percent report they don't know when their child should first be seen.
The AOA recommends every child be seen by an optometrist soon after 6 months of age and before the age of 3, and as a result of the pediatric essential health benefit in the Affordable Care Act, children are now covered for yearly comprehensive eye exams through age 18.
Help parents and kids get a good start on the school year with a healthy routine that will give students all the right tools to succeed. Find Ready-for-School campaign resources and information here.