RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif.—A new survey by VSP Vision Care and You.gov finds that just over one-half (50.1 percent) of parents in the U.S. overlook a back-to-school eye exam for their school-age children.
Although three in four respondents (76 percent) said sight is the most important sense, the findings from the “How Parents ‘See’ Eye Health” survey revealed that often parents’ attitudes don’t match their actions for themselves and their children. There were more than 1,000 parents queried in the online survey fielded June 16 to 23.
Additionally, although 80 percent of parents say they believe back-to-school eye exams are important for their children, only 50 percent of dads and 60 percent of moms take their children for an eye exam, as noted in this infographic from the survey.
“It may seem surprising, but kids who can’t read or even speak yet can still have a comprehensive eye exam,” said Mary Anne Murphy, OD, owner and practitioner of Front Range Eye Associates in Denver and a VSP Global board member. “The connection between eyes and the brain starts early. As an optometrist and a mom of school-age children myself, I encourage parents to prioritize back-to-school eye exams, the same way you wouldn’t miss a dentist or pediatrician visit.”
She added, “Kids don’t know what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to eye health.” As much as 80 percent of learning a child does is visual, with children spending most of the school day reading, looking at a blackboard, and using laptops and tablets, according to the VSP announcement.
Kids should have a first comprehensive vison assessment at six months to ensure the eyes are working together and to detect any vision problems early; followed by a comprehensive eye exam at three years old, five years old, and annually throughout the school years, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA).
However, the survey findings indicate that one in five parents (21 percent) did not take their kids to the eye doctor for the first time until they were at least five years old. Additionally, one in 10 (13 percent) has never taken their child(ren) to the eye doctor.
The survey uncovered other key barriers that prevent parents from getting an annual eye exam for their children, including:
· Parents incorrectly assume school or pediatric vision screenings are the same as a comprehensive eye exam.
· More than one-third (37 percent) of moms said they skipped eye exams because their kids already have their eyes checked in school. Vision screenings only test for distance vision and visual sharpness, and can miss up to 80 percent of vision problems.
· Parents are delaying eye exams—and vision insurance—until kids start school. For 23 percent of moms surveyed, obtaining vision insurance is the biggest barrier to taking their kids for an eye exam. However, 30 percent said having vision insurance would motivate them to change that.