Bupa is encouraging people to have their children’s eyes tested ahead of the new school year, particularly given the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a significant increase in screen time due to online learning and more time spent learning from home.
According to Bupa optometrist Karen Makin, undiagnosed vision problems can be associated with educational, physical and social development difficulties amongst children.
“The COVID-19 pandemic certainly changed the way children learnt, socialised and entertained themselves with many exposed to screens for many hours a day learning, socialising or relaxing in front of the TV.
“Parents who suspect their child has developed a vision impairment or is experiencing a deterioration of an existing condition should visit an optometrist ahead of the start of Term 1. Something as simple as a pair of glasses or contacts can make a significant and immediate difference to a child’s day to day life and give them the best chance at succeeding at school,” said Ms Makin.
Research shows one-in-five Australian children have an undetected vision problem with many experiencing short-sightedness that can be caused and exacerbated by prolonged screen time and reduced time spent playing outdoors.
It is recommended that all children have their eyes tested before they start school for the first time, this will ensure that there are no underlying issues that may affect a child’s learning. Annual eye-tests are recommended thereafter (or as advised by your eyecare practitioner) to track any changes or emerging problems.
“Unlike many physical conditions, vision impairments can be difficult for a parent to identify, however there are some tell-tale signs a parent can take note of, such as squinting, watery eyes or just general tiredness and an inability to concentrate properly," added Ms Makin.