The new school year has been anything but routine for students and parents in Southern Nevada, and the adjustments to online learning have upended the standard approach to eye exams and healthy vision practices. Now, instead of picking out new glasses so they can the blackboard more clearly, students have their eyes fixated on virtual classrooms and online video lessons.

“When you think about the ways online learning is different, you must consider how it affects a child’s vision,” explains Dr. Vivienne Velasco of iFocus Vision Center. “In a classroom setting, students – young children especially – are not looking at screens all day.”

Here’s what parents should be mindful of when sending their kids to school online.

Digital Eye Strain

It’s difficult enough for parents to keep computer and device use to a healthy minimum when their kids aren’t in school. With learning taking place online, extended screen time and tired, dry, scratchy, and painful eyes – all symptoms of digital eye strain – are now the biggest concern for virtual students.

Clark County schools have been in session only a couple of weeks, and parents are starting to hear complaints bout eye strain.

“Digital eye strain can also lead to headaches, which can be confusing for parents if they don’t know what’s causing it,” she says. “If a child has not had a comprehensive eye exam within the past year, please have their eyes examined to make sure their vision is optimal for online schooling.”

Dr. Velasco recommends children of all ages continue to observe the “20-20-20” rule during virtual learning sessions. “20-20-20” is a healthy vision practice in which the student takes a break from looking at a screen every 20 minutes, and focuses their eyes on an object that is 20 feet away, for 20 seconds.

Eye-Friendly Desk Setups

Online learning has forced parents to scramble to recreate the classroom experience inside the home, complete with desks and chairs that aren’t always sized properly for students.

To ensure a child’s eyes – just like your own — stay healthy while they work from home, parents are encouraged to keep the learning environment bright, with as much natural light as possible, and adjust a child’s seat properly to keep the computer screen slightly below eye level.

Unreliable Online Eye Exams

While many parents schedule annual eye exams before the start of a new school year, the coronavirus pandemic has, unfortunately, forced many to skip the exam. However, Dr. Velasco warns that parents shouldn’t rely on online eye exams in place of the real thing.

“It is impossible to determine a person’s prescription online or do a proper assessment of eye health online,” she says.

Likewise, vision screenings – often scheduled at the start of a new school year – are no substitute for a comprehensive eye exam.

“A vision screening just checks a person’s visual acuity at 20 feet,” Dr. Velasco says. “An eye exam involves the assessment of a person’s binocular vision, depth perception, color vision, refractive error, and, health of the front and back of the eye.

“A vision screening should never be mistaken for a comprehensive eye exam. Just because someone passes a vision screening does not mean their eyes are healthy.”

Dr. Velasco’s advice for parents: nothing can replace the effectiveness of a comprehensive eye exam. Since the onset of the pandemic, iFocus Vision Center has taken a careful approach to treating patients, especially children, and “safety remains our No. 1 priority,” she says.

iFocus Vision Center remains open with strict guidelines in place to protect patients and staff members. Patients with an urgent need are seen by appointment only, and iFocus offers curbside pickup for eyeglasses or contact lens refills. To schedule an appointment, contact us at 702-473-5660.