8 Early Signs of Child Vision Problems

While children rely on all their senses to learn, around 80% of what your child learns in school is taught visually: reading and writing, class participation, board work, and using computers are some of the most common, and most vital, tasks schoolchildren perform. Children’s eyes are constantly at work. And when their vision functions improperly, their performance in school and sports suffers.

If your child has vision problems, they will have a hard time keeping up with school work. Here are a few warning signs of child eye problems. Symptoms to look out for in your children’s behavior to detect early vision problems with your child include:

girl watching tv

1. Watching TV or Reading Books Too Closely

Contrary to popular belief, While watching TV or reading at a close range will not damage your vision, this could be a sign of an existing vision problem, such as nearsightedness.

If your child moves close to the TV or pulls their book closer to read and squints their eyes often to have a better view of objects, they could be nearsighted, however there is no evidence that these habits cause damage to children’s or adult’s eyes.

Children will tend to prefer close viewing because their young eyes are far better able to focus, and for far longer, than adult eyes before feeling the effects of eye strain.

eye+rubbing

2. Frequent Eye Rubbing

Before you get worried, children can rub their eyes when they’re upset or tired. This is perfectly normal.

However, if you notice that your child rubs their eyes vigorously whenever they are trying to concentrate or while they are actively playing, it could indicate an underlying visual problem.

If the excessive eye rubbing persists even when your child is not tired or fatigued, then their eye fatigue may be being caused by a number of vision issues, including focusing and eye-teaming problems.

Because this symptom can also be due to a number of other conditions unrelated to eye-health (such as allergies), you should look out for at least one or two other symptoms, like poor grades or frequent headaches if you are trying to determine whether your child has a vision problem.

3. Losing Track While Reading or Using a Finger to Focus

finger reading

Typically, a child learning to read will use a finger to guide his or her eye along the page, but the impulse to do so holds for beginners of all ages. Any text written in script that is unfamiliar to us tends to be more difficult to "see" and follow.

A finger placed alongside or underneath the text, can aid beginning readers by focusing the eye on a single word or phrase at a time, and this really does help to ease eye strain and improve concentration.

As children become more experienced readers, most will gradually fall out of the habit of using a guiding finger because it no longer makes much of a difference. Children are also discouraged from continuing this practice for too long because it makes them appear "slow"-- like keeping your training wheels after you've already learned to ride a bicycle.

Note that it's perfectly normal for kids to track what they’re reading with their finger as they learn to read but they should eventually be comfortable to read without losing track as time goes by. If your child continues using their finger, ask them to read out loud without pointing. If they have trouble reading, it could be a vision problem.

4. Sensitivity to Light or Excessive Tearing

light sensitivity

If you notice that your child tears a lot, particularly due to indoor lighting, they could be suffering from light sensitivity, or photophobia.

Photophobia is not an eye disease, but a symptom of many conditions such as infection or inflammation that can irritate the eyes.

Children with extreme sensitivity to light can easily develop headaches and nausea. Light sensitivity can be a warning symptom of eye conditions.

Children with a lighter eye color also may experience more light sensitivity in environments such as bright sunlight, because darker-colored eyes contain more pigment to protect against harsh lighting.

Other common causes of photophobia include corneal abrasion, iritis and uveitis, burns to the eye, eye disease, injury, or infection (such as chalazion, episcleritis, glaucoma).

5. Closing One Eye to Watch or Read

Photo credit: bettervisionguide.com

Photo credit: bettervisionguide.com

When your child frequently closes one eye, it indicates that they could have a binocular vision problem that is interfering with the coordination of the two eyes working together. Closing one eye when reading can also indicate that one eye has a problem teaming with the other.

Generally, binocular vision issues are classified into three groups:

Accommodative insufficiency: the eyes are unable to focus properly at near distances which causes double vision.

Convergence insufficiency: when looking at things close up, like reading, the eyes are unable to work together or have issues teaming up.

Oculomotor dysfunction: not being able to read across a page due to the eyes’ inability to track or coordinate together.

6. Poor Grades

Photo credit: youngparents.com

Photo credit: youngparents.com

Vision and learning are closely related. For children to reach their full academic potential, good vision is important.

If your child can not clearly see what the teacher is writing on the board, they will perform poorly. Most of the time, children won’t mention their vision problems. This can result in a decrease in grades.

Children with binocular vision problems tend to feel fatigue and have headaches when reading and studying. They may also skip small words when reading, reread sentences and insert words that do not exist in the text.

If your child appears inattentive in class, avoids reading and studying, makes careless mistakes or has difficulty completing assignments, often this is through no fault of their own but instead an undiagnosed vision problem.

Sometimes all you need is a thorough eye exam to improve their ability to succeed in school.

7. Refuses to Use the Computer Because Their Eyes Hurt

Photo credit: hellodoktor.com

Photo credit: hellodoktor.com

It isn’t uncommon for kids today to be seen using tablets, smartphones, computers, and other digital devices. In fact, they’re probably getting more digital device time than most adults.

Part of the problem is that, in many cases, kids often use an adult’s computer, which isn’t usually well-suited for their size. Kids using an adult’s computer have a tough time getting the best viewing angle, which can result in digital eye strain.

Kids often make the mistake of holding their smartphone or tablet too close to their eyes. Doing this often can result in digital eye strain. To reduce strain on the eyes, a screen should be an arm’s length away from the eyes.

Children are more likely to deal with digital eye strain because they’re often unaware that they’re having problems. Kids may not realize how much time they spend looking at a screen, and they’re less likely to take breaks than adults.

Ensure that your child takes breaks after every 20 minutes for twenty seconds by looking at an object that is 20 feet away. If their eyes still hurt, it’s necessary that you take them to an optician.

8. Squinting and Tilting to Get A Better View

Photo credit: madeformums.com

Photo credit: madeformums.com

This behavior can be another indicator of the aforementioned binocular vision issues, as children attempt to offset undiagnosed vision problems.

Teachers should be on the look for children that often squint their eyes and tilt their heads to have a better view and pull them to the front.

As a parent, if you notice any of the signs mentioned above, ask your child’s teacher to observe on your child’s visual behavior while at school.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should bring your child in for an eye exam, but even if things seem outwardly normal, it is still good to have a first eye exams at before they they start school, generally at age 4 or 5.

If you notice any of the above signs, kindly let us know and we will be happy to help or advise.

How to Avoid Digital Eye Strain --Treatment and Relief

While our eyes are amazing organs, they aren’t made for staring at screens all day —that’s why our eyes feel tired and sore when we spend too long focusing on our devices, or even straining to read in the dark.

If you’re like most people, you probably experience the type of ocular fatigue known as digital eye strain on a daily basis; just a couple of hours of device use can take it’s toll on your eyes.

woman with headache

In the short-term, digital eye strain leads to symptoms like headaches and blurred vision. In the long term, it’s predicted that a lifetime of abusing our eyes can lead to a severe loss of visual acuity and clarity.

Exactly how much our eyes might suffer from lifelong overexposure to digital stimuli is yet to be fully understood, as the technology causing it is still relatively new, but like any bad habit, it probably isn’t healthy for us.

Now that you have an idea of what the condition is, lets look at some of the common symptoms and effects of digital eyestrain

Digital Eye Strain Symptoms

  • Headaches

  • Pain in the back, shoulders, and neck

  • Red, dry or irritated eyes

  • Blurred vision

  • Eye fatigue

What Causes Digital Eye Strain

Digital eye strain is often caused by small print, and pixelated images that are difficult for our eyes to read and focus on; these types of text and images force our eyes to strain in order to focus.

Sometimes the set up of the device that you are using can also cause digital eye strain.

If the device is improperly held or set in a bad angle, its likely going to force your eyes to strain to get a good view.

How To Avoid Digital Eye Strain

person at computer

The most effective way to prevent digital eye strain is to stop the use of digital devices altogether, and even reading books in anything less than ideal lighting conditions.

Unfortunately, we can’t really avoid using digital devices —we rely on them so much in these modern times, they’re practically a part of us!

But don’t worry!

There are a couple of things that we can do to reduce the amount of stress we’re putting on our eyes.

Since we mostly use our computers in our daily routines, the first thing that we are going to cover are: computer ergonomics.

Adjust Your Monitor

When at the office or on your laptop or desktop, your computer monitor is supposed to be positioned directly in front of your face and slightly below the level of your eyes.

Maintain your Distance

Keep your phone or computer screen at a safe distance. A good rule is to sit at a arm length distance from the computer.

If you are using a handheld device, ensure that the device is at a safe distance that enables you to read comfortably.

This can be difficult with the smaller screens of a mobile device, thankfully you can also…

Increase the Size of Your Text

To comfortably read everything from your computer, increase the size of your texts to avoid straining your eyes to read. Here’s how you can do it on Windows 10, Mac, and iPhone/iPad

Reduce Brightness

Ensure that the computer screen's brightness is adjusted to that of your surrounding. Always adjust your computer screen before you start using it.

Ensure Your Screen Is Clean

Clean your monitor to wipe out the translucent particles that will force you to strain to read and do your computer tasks.

Wear Computer Glasses 

The most advanced way to protect your eyes is to get a pair of computer glasses.

These glasses are made with customized lenses that relax the eye while providing a wide field of view to prevent eye strain.

We have a selection of these glasses in our optical department.

Computer glasses have the most up to date lens designs to take the strain off of your eyes at the computer.

Proper computer glasses will also reduce the amount of blue light that makes it from your screen to your eyes. This can be done with coatings that reflect this high energy light or with lens materials that absorb it.

Either way, with less blue light getting to your eyes, they won’t have to strain as hard, and as a bonus your circadian rhythm will improve!

Use the 20-20-20 Break Rule

After every minutes of computer use, take your eyes away for 20 seconds and look at anything else that is 20 feet away from you.

computer glasses next to macbook

Do you spend a lot of time in front of your computer or phone? Consider getting a pair of computer glasses.

Stay Hydrated

Seventy percent of our body is made up of fluids. For you to keep your eyes hydrated, you need to drink water on a regular basis.

Use A Humidifier If The Air Around You Is Too Dry 

man using eye drops

Dry air evaporates the moisture right our of your eyes, and can cause real problems if you aren’t blinking enough (like when you’re staring at a computer screen) causing eye strain.

If the environment has dry air, use a humidifier to keep it moist enough for your eyes to stay hydrated.

Use Artificial Tears

When you are working on your computer, you can be easily carried away by what you are doing that you forget to blink. Artificial tears will keep your eyes hydrated. Eyes begin to strain to see when they are dry.

When your body is well hydrated, your eyes will have enough fluids, too!


If you suffer from persistent eye strain problems you should visit your eye care professional.

You can always schedule a free consultation at Midtown Optometry, any time, and we will do our best to help you all along.