Why testing children’s eyesight is important

Experts warn eye health of New Zealand children could be at risk

Research has revealed that up to 58 per cent of New Zealanders under the age of 16 have never had an eye exam. Concerning reading given that, of the 44,000 plus children across New Zealand that have been tested by optometrist Specsavers in the last year, 75 per cent required a prescription.

Almost half, 44 per cent, of parents that have never taken their child for an eye exam thought that there was nothing wrong with their child’s eyes, whereas 37 per cent admitted they’ve never really thought about getting their child’s eyes tested and a third, 31 per cent, believed their child was too young.

Specsavers Optometrist, Sima Lal, says; “It’s concerning that more than 450,000 children have never had an eye exam because vision and eye health can have a major impact on a child’s development – not just on their education but on sports and social interactions as well.

“With no visible symptoms, many parents assume their child’s eyes are healthy, but this may not be the case. This is the reason why so many eye disorders, mostly vision problems like myopia, go undiagnosed.

Sima continued; “Most young children find it hard to explain the difficulties they are experiencing or may be unaware they have a problem at all. It is vital that even if parents aren’t seeing symptoms they should still take their child for an eye exam.”

Common eye conditions such as myopia and lazy eye, which can have no obvious symptoms, can be identified and treated with early detection but there is a critical window of opportunity, before a child is eight years old.

When it comes to taking children for an eye exam, optometrists are specially trained to make the test room as welcoming as possible. This includes using specially designed charts that allow children to recognise shapes or pictures, so even children unable to read can have their eyes tested.

Launched in 2015, Specsavers’ ‘Kids Go Free’ initiative provides a free comprehensive eye exam to all New Zealand children aged 15 and under, every two years.

Ten warming signs that there may be something wrong with your child’s vision

  • Straining their eyes or tilting their head to see better
  • Frequently rubbing their eyes
  • Losing their place while reading, or using a finger to guide their reading
  • Overly sensitive to light and/or experiences excessive tearing in bright conditions
  • Falling behind at school
  • Complaining of headaches or tired eyes
  • Consistently sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close
  • Avoids activities which require near vision, such as reading or homework; or distance vision, such as participating in sports or other recreational activities
  • Closes one eye to read, watch TV or see better
  • Avoids using a computer or tablet because it ‘hurts their eyes’

Research New Zealand – New Zealand Eye Care Survey commissioned by Specsavers in April 2018. The survey was conducted online amongst a nationally representative sample of New Zealand parents aged 18 years and older with a child aged 15 years or younger. The sample was 939 respondents, distributed throughout New Zealand including both North and South Island.

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