Q and A with Dr Paymon:

What parents need to know about children and their vision

Q: Does my child need an eye exam? If so, at what age should I bring them in?

Yes! It is believed that 1 in 4 grade-school children have vision problems. For that reason, amongst many others, it is imperative to bring children in for eye exams between the ages of 2-3 as the age of diagnosing these vision problems is crucial for their development and learning ability prior to attending school. Kids at that age have a very difficult time communicating with their parents about blurry vision, headaches, and trouble maintaining focus which are commonly related to needing glasses. The future of your child’s intelligence and quality of learning can be limited if they do suffer from an undiagnosed vision problem.

Q: As a parent what should I look out for if I suspect my child has vision problems?

The most common signs of vision problems amongst children are squinting, rubbing their eyes, sitting too close to the tv, bringing their books or anything hand-held too close to their face, complaining of headaches around their eye and/or forehead, closing one eye to read or watch tv, an eye turn or “lazy” eye, and frequently losing their place while reading. If any of these apply to your child and you think that it’s happening on a regular basis definitely bring them in for an eye exam sooner than later. Undiagnosed vision problems can have detrimental effects on your child’s quality of life and the timing of these diagnosis are very crucial to achieving maximum potential with their vision.

Q: Is it safe for my child to use the computer, iPhone, iPad?

This is definitely the most common question I get asked by parents when screen time has become an issue. In regards to computer use, studies have shown that children as young as 3 years old who use the computer at home have a higher likelihood of performing better in school than those who don’t! This doesn’t mean that children should be on the computer exclusively but it does give some insight to the positive effects of computer use on vison which are increased focusing abilities, more efficient visual motor skills, and an improvement in visual recognition. I would limit their total time per day to under 2-3 hours while taking a least a 1 minute break for every 30 minutes of continuous work.

When it comes to iPhones, iPads, or any hand-held electronic device I would recommend limiting these as much as possible under the age of 5. Most pediatricians and clinicians I’ve spoken to say it’s best to try and have close to no hand-held screen time under the age of 2 which I know can be difficult as a parent of a 1.5 year old boy. Although these devices also have clear advantages to their vision similar to that of the average desktop computer, their proximity to your child’s eyes can have negative effects on their clarity of vision, attention, and social skills.

Q: What is the best way to prepare my child before bringing them in for an eye exam?

Most children are not too excited about going to their first eye exam because they don’t know what to expect! Pediatricians and pediatric dentists have the advantage over optometrists when it comes to seeing kids because of how often they go to these doctors under the age of 8.   I think the best way to prepare your child for their first eye exam is to explain and communicate to them what will happen during the exam prior to going in. I like to tell parents that a child’s first exam will involve playing games, reading letters or recognizing pictures, possibly having their eyes dilated with eye drops which can sting and be a little painful, and cool dark shades afterwards so they’re not too sensitive to light! Making sure they’re well rested, well fed, and time of the day are equally as important for their behavior and ability to stay focused during testing.

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