Child in sun

International Youth Day: Taking a closer look at kids’ eye health

Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

In recognition of International Youth Day today, we’re taking a closer look at kids’ eye health, particularly given the concerning statistic that one in five children are living with an undetected vision problem.

Vision is crucial for a child's educational, physical and social development so it’s vital parents are active in maintaining their children's eye health.

Research conducted by Optometry Australia for the 2020 Vision Index Report found that almost four in five (79 per cent) Australian parents believe their children have great eyesight; however, alarmingly over 30 per cent of Australian parents have never taken their children for an eye examination by an optometrist.

This is particularly problematic given eye disorders are the most common long term health issue experienced by children according to The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, with one in six 10 to 14 year olds wearing glasses or contact lenses to correct sight.

Here, we take a closer look at some of the more common eye conditions found in children, with parents reminded to watch out for any of the below symptoms in their child.


Astigmatism causes blurred vision as a result of an imperfection in the curve of the cornea or lens. Although often correcting itself as part of a child’s development, the condition affects almost one in 10 school aged children.

If a child’s astigmatism is left untreated, it can impact their ability to achieve in school and sports as it causes blurred and distorted vision. The good news is, astigmatism can be treated or corrected with the use of glasses or contact lenses.

Signs and symptoms for parents to look out for include:

  • Your child has started to complain about headaches
  • Your child is complaining they have blurred vision or have general eye discomfort
  • You’ve noticed your child squinting to see clearly

Hyperopia (long sightedness) and Myopia (short sightedness)

Hyperopia, commonly known as long sightedness, occurs if the cornea of the eye is too flat. Hyperopia is common in babies, however they mostly grow out of it. It is evident a child has this condition when they can see objects further away, but have trouble seeing objects close up.

On the other hand, Myopia, known as short sightedness, is an eye condition where you cannot see distant objects clearly. It is very common and usually begins in school-age children and can continue to progress until the eye stops growing. Affecting almost 15 per cent of Australian kids aged between five and nine, the prevalence of myopia is increasing and can be linked to lifestyle factors such as a lack of time outdoors.

Both hyperopia and myopia are conditions which can be treated with contact lenses and glasses.

Signs and symptoms for parents to look out for include:

  • You’ve noticed your child is squinting or straining their eyes
  • Your child has been complaining about having a headache

Dry eye

Dry eye is diagnosed and identified in 6.6 per cent of children. It is often triggered as a result of prolonged screen time, with almost half of Australian parents (44 per cent) admitting they are worried about the effects of screen time on their child's eyesight.

Signs and symptoms for parents to look out for include:

  • You’ve noticed your child constantly rubbing their eyes
  • You’ve noticed your child’s eyes are red and irritated

Amblyopia or lazy eye

Amblyopia, known as lazy eye, is common in young children. It typically affects only one eye and occurs if children's eyes do not develop properly during infancy and early childhood.

Treatment for amblyopia involves forcing the brain to pay attention to the images of the amblyopic or weaker eye so vision in that eye gets stronger. This is done with glasses, eye patches, eye drops, surgery, or a combination of these.

Signs and symptoms for parents to look out for include:

  • You’ve noticed your child is having trouble telling how near or far away an object is
  • Your child tilts their head to see
  • Your child squints or shuts one eye when looking at something


With vision being critical to a child's development, parents have a huge responsibility to ensure their children's eye health is maintained and managed.

Tips for parents to help ensure their child maintains good vision for life

  • Take your child to visit an optometrist on a regular basis, especially at the first signs of a suspected vision problem, because once recognised, many eye problems are easy to correct or treat
  • When reading at home, always read in a room with good and even lighting, and encourage regular breaks
  • Encourage your child to spend a few hours outdoors each day
  • Encourage your child to wear sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat while outside as this reduces the amount of UV exposure to their eyes

If you are concerned about your child's eyesight, contact your local optometrist for expert advice or to book an eye examination.

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