Optometrists to Promote Children’s Eye Exams for New School Year

by | 4 minute read

Parents want to give their children everything they need to do well in school, but often one thing gets overlooked: eye exams. This back-to-school season, The Vision Council, an organization dedicated to inspiring better vision for better lives, encourages parents to be proactive about their children's eye health and schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an eyecare provider, long before their first important classroom exam.

According to AudienceSCAN, 44% of Potential Eye Doctor/Optometrist Switchers have children living at home. Of these parents with grade school-aged children, 14.4% have kids between the ages of 13 and 17, 11.1%'s kids are ages six through nine, 9.9% have two- to five-year-olds and 8.9% have kids ages 10 to 12.

"When parents think of back-to-school prep that should include an eye exam," says Dr. Justin Bazan, optometrist and medical adviser to The Vision Council. "Oftentimes, parents feel the eye checks at the pediatrician, or even at the school nurse's station, suffice. The truth is they are often not enough. It's important to see an eyecare provider to ensure their child(ren)'s eye health is being closely monitored from the get-go."

Many vision problems and eye diseases can be detected and prevented early. For example, the most common vision problem in children is nearsightedness, or myopia, which is growing at an alarming rate and puts the eyes at risk for more serious vision-threatening conditions. Myopia effects 1.7 billion people in the world, with more than half the world expected to be myopic by 2050, so early detection in children is key. When parents know what to look for, it can be relatively easy to spot problems with a child's vision. They ought to keep an eye out for these symptoms or behaviors:

  • Short attention span
  • Avoiding or not liking reading
  • Difficulty throwing or catching a ball, copying from a chalkboard, and/or tying their shoes
  • Pulling a book in close to their face, and/or sitting too close to a TV
  • Lots of blinking or eye rubbing
  • Guiding their eyes with a finger or pencil while reading
  • Falling performance in school

To help combat myopia, specifically, parents can encourage their children to spend more time outdoors and less time using digital devices, which may influence the development of nearsightedness.

Even though Potential Eye Doctor/Optometrist Switchers are planning on changing providers, only 52.6% plan on actually scheduling an appointment with these professionals this year, according to AudienceSCAN.

According to Think About Your Eyes, a national public awareness campaign shedding light on the importance of an annual eye exam, 80% of all learning comes through the eyes, so children are at a strong disadvantage in school and elsewhere when they can't see properly. Additionally, close to 24% of parents wait for their child(ren) to have symptoms before taking them to an eyecare provider, but it's important to know a child(ren) might not be able to recognize or communicate if they have a vision problem since they don't know what constitutes "normal" vision.

Experts say 5 to 10% of preschoolers and a quarter of school-aged children have vision problems, which can cause challenges in learning and behavior. Too often, a child who can't see well is misdiagnosed with an unrelated behavioral problem, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This misdiagnosis can start a frustrating chain of events, from unnecessary doctor visits, to prescriptions for medications, to enrollment in special classes, when the real solution might be right before their eyes: a pair of glasses.

In contrast with adults, children are at an increased risk for eye damage from several sources. Generally, kids receive about three times the annual amount of ultraviolet (UV) ray exposure from the sun as adults, yet just more than 56% of American adult parents say their child(ren) wears sunglasses, as per a survey by The Vision Council. Therefore, children should be wearing sunglasses with lenses that offer UVA/UVB protection every time they're outdoors during daylight hours.

And then there's the wealth of computer, tablet, cell phone and television screens that children stare at each day. According to a survey by The Vision Council, more than 70% of American adult parents report their child(ren) spend two or more hours daily on a digital device, putting them at risk for digital eye strain, which is the physical discomfort experienced after prolonged screen use. Besides playing outside, the most popular activities children engage in are playing on a digital device (23.1%) and watching television (20.1%). However, nearly 25% of parents are not concerned about the impact of digital devices on their child(ren)'s developing eyes. Parents surveyed say their child(ren) experience the following after two or more hours of screen time: headaches, neck/shoulder pain, eye strain, dry or irritated eyes, reduced attention span, poor behavior, and/or irritability.

Both UV eye protection and digital eye strain are key topics parents ought to mention during their child(ren)'s annual eye exam, given that an eyecare provider is the best source for more information about lens solutions available to combat the effects of the sun's UV rays, and digital devices on the eyes.

The Vision Council, in line with the American Optometric Association, recommends children have their first eye exam with an eyecare provider when they're between 6 months to a year old, at least once between ages 3 and 5 or as recommended, and annually starting at age 6 or before entering first grade.

Potential Eye Doctor/Optometrist Switchers can be shown the importance of getting their children's eyes checked through a variety of advertisements. According to AudienceSCAN, last year, 68.9% of this audience took action after seeing a TV commercial. The TV is also where 15.5% of this audience believed the best health/medical information is sourced. They're also 37% more likely than other adults to take action after seeing a pre-roll video ad. Direct mail is also an effective advertising method since 66.6% of this audience took action after receiving ads or coupons in the mail last year.

AudienceSCAN data is available for your applications and dashboards through the SalesFuel API. Media companies and agencies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.

Rachel Cagle

Rachel Cagle

Rachel is a Research Analyst, specializing in audience intelligence, at SalesFuel. She also helps to maintain the major accounts and co-op intelligence databases. As the holder of a Bachelors degree in English from The Ohio State University, Rachel helps the rest of the SalesFuel team with their writing needs.