My son is seven years old. At what age should children first have their eyes tested?

A child’s eyesight does not fully develop until the age of seven. Early vision screening is very important. Your child’s vision should be tested by the age of four to five. Most paediatricians usually test children’s eyesight as part of a routine exam. Most of the schools do vision screening and notify parents if they suspect anything. About one quarter of school-age children have some form of vision problem, such as long sightedness, short sightedness, astigmatism, cataracts, colour blindness, amblyopia or a lazy eye. Many of these problems begin well before school age and can go undetected, so screening at an early age is an important part of the prevention, detection, and diagnosis and treatment process. Eyesight problems among children are more common than many people may think. If a child constantly complains of eye problems such as eye strain, there may be a vision problem.

My son spends a lot of time on his laptop or smartphone. I’ve heard that excessive screen time may be harmful to kids. Is that true?

The most common problem caused by screen time among school going children is ocular discomfort. This is related to the increase in usage of near-visual devices. Because children don’t blink as often as they should be when viewing these devices it could lead to ocular discomfort. Frequent blinking helps us to spread our tear film evenly across the eyes making them comfortable. There are a few ophthalmic solutions for these problems. To begin with, the best way forward to curb the problem is to reduce the time spent staring at screens. Parents should note if their children are squeezing or rubbing their eyes often as this may be a sign of ocular surface disease or the need for glasses. The American Association of Pediatricians offers a good set of general guidelines regarding screen time for children:

• Avoid use of screen media among children younger than 18 months.

• If you choose to introduce media to children in the age group of 18-24 months, find high quality programming and co-view and co-play.

• Limit screen use to one hour per day of high-quality programmes for children age two to five years.

• Create a family media plan with consistent rules and enforce them for older children.