The eyes are our most valuable tool in navigating the world around us. These highly sensitive organs give us the ability to not only manipulate our everyday obstacles, but also grant us the most rewarding experiences in visual wonder.
Our children’s minds are highly inquisitive and absorbent to everything around them. Their rapid mental development in these early stages is strongly influenced by their immediate visual experiences.
The eyes provide the window from which young minds begin to understand the goings-on of the outside world.
When this window is compromised, so is their development.
The eyes are an incredibly sensitive organ in early childhood. Their sensitivity makes them highly vulnerable to damage. The eyes do repair just like every other organ in the body, however even the most seemingly harmless eye problems in childhood can lead to more severe complications later in life.
As parents, we have the power to affect our children’s eye health directly.
Let’s explore 5 of the most powerful ways to protect our children’s eyesight for lifelong healthy vision.
- Aim for less screen time
Our televisions, laptops, tablets and phones can be effective tools for independent learning. However, these devices emit a high amount of HEV blue light which can be damaging to the retinal wall inside of the eye. Excess screen time can lead to retinal damage, ocular migraines and a host of other painful problems.
For every 20 minutes spent in front of digital screens, get your child to spend the next 20 minutes focusing on something different, preferably outside in natural light. This will help break up screen time to avoid the dreaded ‘computer vision syndrome’ and will keep your children’s eyes adaptable to natural light.
- Protect their eyes in sunlight
Natural light from the sun is highly beneficial for our wellbeing and eye health. However, direct sunlight can be harmful to the eyes and can cause excessive straining of the facial muscles around them. Continual straining can cause ocular migraines whilst direct UV light from the sun can be damaging to the cornea, the sensitive ‘lens’ of the eyeball.
Getting your children to wear sunglasses or a large brimmed hat when outside ensures their eyes are protected. Even indirect sunlight which reflects from everyday surfaces can be extremely bright and damaging. Natural surfaces like snow and water are highly reflective on sunny days.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology provides advice on how the eyes can be protected from sun damage.
- Don’t skimp on the vegetables
Feeding our children a healthy diet full of whole grains, lean proteins, fibrous fruits and vegetables gives them ample daily energy and keeps their bones healthy. The eyes benefit greatly from a diet rich in variety and various nutrients. Vitamin A from carrots helps our vision stay sharp while dark, leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale hold anti-inflammatory properties. Many common eye problems and irritations can heal better with ample supply of anti-inflammatory foods to reduce swelling and improve oxygenation in the blood.
We know this can be easier said than done – sometimes our kids just don’t want to eat the right foods. This article explains how you can influence your kids to eat healthier with ease.
- Look out for symptoms
The best way to prevent damage to the eyes is to regularly monitor our children’s eye health for any possible symptoms of developing conditions. Regularly look out for things like swelling and redness in the eyes and behavioral changes such as excessive straining or blinking.
Regular doctor’s checkups are paramount to our children’s eye health, as we ourselves might not be able to discern exactly how certain conditions manifest. Our children often cannot themselves understand that something is wrong with their eyes as they have no frame of reference to what unhealthy eyes feel like. Whenever symptoms arise, be sure to schedule a visit to your pediatrician. Most often eye problems are common and completely treatable, but even the smallest issues can cause complications later in life if left untreated.
- Teach good habits
The most effective way to protect our children’s eyes is to educate them on how they themselves can influence their health. Educating them about how intricate and wonderful their eyes are will instill a sense of responsibility and accountability for their own health.
Our children learn through social learning. This is when we mimic our immediate role models in behavior and develop our own behaviors to model these influences. Keeping our own eye health in check as parents helps us lead by positive example and develop good habits in our kids.
Taking action and showing our children how to take care of their eyes will develop positive lifelong habits to keep them as healthy as possible with ease. As parents, knowing exactly what to look out for in our kid’s eye health will give them the best chances of keeping their eyes healthy in early stages of childhood and beyond.
To take the first step towards healthy eyes, book an eye test with a qualified optometrist for your family today and receive rebates through your chosen health fund.