Schools all around South Florida are upgrading their technology and moving classrooms into the 21st century. But with the installation of new state-of-the-art equipment to enhance learning, we may be putting increased strain on our children’s eyes.

According to a new survey by the American Optometric Association, parents have concerns about the effects of evolving technology. Fifty-three percent of respondents with children 18 or younger believe viewing digital screens may be harmful to a child’s vision or eyes. Twenty-nine percent of parents feel very concerned that their child may damage their eyes due to prolonged use of computers or hand-held electronic devices.

childrens_eyeglassesStudents can help relieve eye strain from a computer or close device by practicing the 20-20-20 rule. That is for every 20 minutes of near work, take a 20-second break and view something at least 20 feet away.

The eyes focus like any other muscle, and studies show that people need to rest their eyes to keep them relaxed, so staring off into the distance helps the eyes from locking into a close-up position.

Smartboards are interactive white boards replacing chalkboards of the past. And while this enhanced technology is ushering in 21st century learning, these new digital screens offer less contrast and force too many kids to squint just to see their daily assignments. Toward the end of the last school year, I noticed a trend – an increase in students complaining of seeing worse in classes that have this new technology.

No matter what device your child’s school may be using, optimal vision is a must for optimal learning. And good eye care starts with a yearly comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist, especially in school-aged children.