The 21st Century Child

Harrisburg, July 21, 2015 - Digital technology has become an integral part of children's lives both in the classroom and at home. It's predicted that by 2028 many schools will rely heavily on computer simulations for instruction and will even incorporate virtual worlds into curriculums. While advances in technology may help enhance learning, many digital devices are still relatively new and the long-term effects on eyes are still being determined.

According to the American Optometric Association's (AOA) 2015 American Eye-Q® survey, 41 percent of parents say their kids spend three or more hours per day using digital devices, and 66 percent of kids have their own smartphone or tablet.

Many children of the 21st century have had access to electronic devices their entire lives. Children and parents need to be aware of the visual risks associated with staring at screens for long periods of time and take the proper precautions to help alleviate eye and vision problems.

Parents and guardians should watch for signs of digital eye strain in children, which can cause burning, itchy or tired eyes, headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain. Encourage children to take frequent visual breaks by practicing the 20-20-20 rule: when using technology, take a 20-second break every 20 minutes to view something 20 feet away.

Newer electronic devices also give off high-energy, short-wavelength, blue and violet light that may affect vision and even prematurely age the eyes. Research shows that overexposure to blue light can contribute to eye strain and discomfort, leading to serious conditions in later life such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can cause blindness.

Optometrists are also closely monitoring new research surrounding the increasing amount of time today's children spend indoors on electronic devices and the decreasing time spent outside. Studies suggest a lack of exposure to sunlight can affect the growth and development of the eyes and vision, possibly contributing to an increase in number of myopia cases in younger people.

Between the ages of five and 13, a child's eyes are still changing. During that time, the distance between the lens and the retina is also still changing. When the distance between the two lengthens, we see an increase in the instances of nearsightedness. Preliminary studies show that exposure to natural light may play a role in reducing the likelihood of nearsightedness.

It's essential to make comprehensive eye exams a priority every school year to ensure a child's eyes are being properly protected. The Pennsylvania Optometric Association (POA) recommends parents take children in for an eye exam by an optometrist at six months of age, again by age three, and then annually thereafter. Through the Pediatric Essential Health Benefit in the Affordable Care Act, parents can take advantage of yearly comprehensive eye exams for children ages 18 and younger.

It's important to have your child's vision checked before the school year begins to ensure the child is able to see and learn to their best abilities. To find an optometrist in your area, or for additional information on children's eye health and vision, please visit

About the American Eye-Q® survey:

The tenth annual American Eye-Q® survey was created and commissioned in conjunction with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB). From February 19-March 4, 2015, PSB conducted 1,000 online interviews among Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of the U.S. general population. (Margin of error is plus or minus 3.10 percentage points at a 95% confidence level)

About the Pennsylvania Optometric Association (POA):

The Pennsylvania Optometric Association is the professional organization for doctors of optometry in Pennsylvania. An affiliate of the American Optometric Association, the POA promotes the highest quality eye and vision care by optometrists, represents optometry to state government, provides its members with post-graduate education and membership benefits, and conducts activities in the interest of the visual welfare of the public. For more information, visit

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):

The American Optometric Association, a federation of state, student and armed forces optometric associations, was founded in 1898. Today, the AOA is proud to represent the profession of optometry, America's family eye doctors, who take a leading role in an individual's overall eye and vision care, health and well-being. Doctors of optometry (ODs) are the independent primary health care professionals for the eye and have extensive, ongoing training to examine, diagnose, treat and manage disorders, diseases and injuries that affect the eye and visual system, providing two-thirds of primary eye care in the U.S. For information on a variety of eye health and vision topics, and to find an optometrist near you, visit

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