The ongoing controversy over keeping an eye on your child’s online activity. 

Teenagers are not strangers to controversy; from the recent spurning fast fashion to steering clear of meat in response to climate change. Controversy sparks change. Likewise, debates have always surrounded the idea and the meaning of ‘privacy’. Children and teenagers despise parental control apps because they feel parents are infringing on their privacy. To them, privacy does not mean isolation but wanting ‘space’ to focus on their personal growth and become more independent.

Putting ourselves in their shoes, would we want our parents to keep their watch on every move we make on social media? Probably not. Then why should we monitor our kids’ activity? 

As parents, we want the best for our kids, from encouraging them to consume greens at the dinner table, to providing them with the best education. It also includes wanting them to be safe regardless of whether they are online or offline. This does not mean your kids have to keep their smartphones at arm’s length. In this digital age, it’s essential that your kids keep up with what’s new and upcoming. However, the emergence of smartphones has also inevitably created a fence, making it difficult for parents to understand their children. 

The Great Wall of Smartphone Culture in Homes.

The barrier first came about when children held a smartphone in their hands, with the power to explore the online space and make new connections. This has provided them with the opportunity to deal with a crisis at school on their own instead of seeking their parents’ help. Smartphones also offer a wide range of games and social media platforms that children and teens can keep themselves occupied with. Around 53 percent of children in the US own a smartphone by the age of 11, with online video viewing being their one of the most enjoyable online activities. Furthermore, it can be done in the comfort of their own cozy bedroom.

Parental control apps were not created to build a wall between parents and children. They were supposed to form a bridge between both groups, with parents being able to cross over when the child is in danger. Hence, if parental control apps are used wisely to monitor your kid’s online activities, the positive impacts do outweigh the negative ones.

The moment of truth. 

In fact, a study highlighted that kids disclosing their personal information online was not associated with a higher incidence of stalking and linked dangers. The study also called attention to the fact that kids that are monitored by their parents are more likely to be disobedient compared to a parent-child relationship based on trust and mutual respect.

The solution, hence, is to always strike a balance. Monitoring your kid’s activities at a discreet distance will often benefit both parties, giving parents a peace of mind and keeping children safe. But how do you ensure that monitoring your kids’ activities at a distance is effective? 

Always be available

Incidents that deterred me from speaking to my parents as a child is the fact that they were very busy. As a working parent myself now, I understand that children should never be subjected to the line ‘’I’m busy, don’t disturb me’’ when they approach us with their concerns. Devote your complete attention to address their troubles and avoid multitasking. Showing them that you are always there to lend a listening ear helps to build trust with them.

Parental control apps aim to build rather than burn bridges with your kids. By preventing them from accessing harmful content online, it saves your children from falling into traps set by predators. At the same time, never replace your own physical presence with that of a monitoring software. 

plano is a parental control app that helps to manage your child’s device use. If you are intending to download such an app, be sure to have an open conversation with them before downloading to establish a climate of trust and respect with your children.

As more of our kids begin to own smartphones of their own, they may fall prey to smartphone addiction and this can harm their health in ways that we may not always see.

The phone and you: who’s in charge of who?

To grow up in the 21st Century means to grow up with a phone, a strong wi-fi connection, and of course, an Instagram account with a cool and witty handle. Our children are no strangers to this – they’re basically digital natives and they spend endless amounts of time on the net. According to a survey done on 2000 families with children, children are spending up to 23 hours a week on their smartphones and other devices.

23 hours – that’s nearly a whole day. Imagine spending almost an entire day staring at a tiny screen. We always trust our children to have control over their own devices, but reality paints a different story. It’s as if their thumbs have a mind of their own and even when they want to stop scrolling vicariously through Instagram, they can’t. They want to view Kylie Jenner’s latest Instagram Story; they want to view a funny cat video; they want to tune into their friend’s Instagram Live. It’s like a Rabbit Hole – once they’re down the black hole, it’s difficult to climb out of it.So really, who has control over who? Does your child really have control over their own smartphone use? This could be a sign of smartphone addiction. What is more alarming is the fact that your kid’s smartphone addiction can lead to alarming mental health issues like depression.

We can hide a lot behind a screen, even our sadness.

A study in BMC psychiatry has demonstrated a positive correlation between smartphone addiction and depression. While the research was done on adults, the affectual relationship between extended smartphone use and depression can be applied to children if they’re not cautious of their own screen time.

It’s not the mere act of staring at a screen that contributes to mental health issues, it’s what is being done when kids use their smartphones. The idea of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) permeates social media and affects the way kids view and use their smartphones.

It contributes to a Negative Feedback Loop – kids may find themselves disinterested and disengaged in other activities besides using their smartphone. They may feel agitated and anxious if they’re separated from their phone for too long. Research has uncovered that people who experience these symptoms end up using more social media to cope with these negative feelings. What results is a snowball of negative mental health consequences which may trigger feelings of loneliness and contribute to depression. 

It is therefore pertinent to keep our child’s screen time in check before it spirals out of control. The plano App can help you keep your child’s smartphone use in check. As a parent, you can schedule device-free timings on your child’s phone, and block* the use of certain applications that may be taking up your child’s time.

Smartphones are here to stay for a long time. The uptake of smartphones amongst our children will only increase with time. It’s therefore important that we, as parents, help them understand the importance of moderating their smartphone use. While smartphones are not inherently bad, it’s how we use it that matters. 

High myopia is a detrimental effect of uncorrected myopia not many know about. Getting glasses is an easy and simple solution for vision correction but those who leave myopia undiagnosed will most likely develop a highly myopic eyesight, which can cause glaucoma and blindness. 

Defining Myopia and High Myopia 

Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is caused by the elongation of the eye. This is depicted in the image below.

The average axial length of an eye is around 23.3mm. The perfect vision has a value of 20/20. If the value is not 20/20, there will be a difference in axial length, leading to a difference in the refractive error. Refractive error means that the light does not bend properly when it passes through the lens of the eye. Myopia results in a refractive error, whereas for high myopia, it results in an extremely high refractive error.  

High myopia (also known as pathological myopia) can be associated with genetics, other conditions (e.g, Marfan syndrome) or early onset myopia which is apparent during middle childhood years. Highly myopic eyes are not only very elongated, but they are often also extremely deformed. 

Continuing development of high myopia leads to irreversible visual impairment. 

What is the current myopia situation? 

What’s worrying is the prevalence of myopia in East Asian countries, affecting 10 to 20% of those stepping out of secondary schools. Specifically in urban centres like Singapore, around 80% of children completing high schools are myopic and 10 to 20% might have high myopia. This can be highly attributed to desk-bound lifestyles of children who do not spend enough time outdoors. So what can we do to prevent the onset of myopia in the first place? 

There are many methods to correct vision which include glasses, contact lenses and refractive surgery. Spectacles are widely used and recommended to reduce the progression of myopia in children. However, there are several misconceptions outlined by parents regarding vision care.

“My child does not have myopia, hence I have nothing to worry about.” 

Having perfect eyesight does not mean that there is no chance of developing myopia in the future. It is important to ensure that your child sustains good eye care habits to that prevents myopia from developing in the time to come.

Moreover, it’s also important to get your child’s eyes checked annually even if your child possesses perfect eyesight. Symptoms of vision problems such as myopia at the beginning stage may not hurt but if left undiagnosed, it can lead to more serious effects, like high myopia. 

“My child has myopia, but the prescription for glasses is pretty low. So they don’t have to wear them.” 

Many parents have a misconception that not wearing low-prescription spectacles can train your child’s eyes and correct their vision. Unfortunately, not wearing glasses could worsen the onset of myopia. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that uncorrected myopia is a major cause of blindness. Even when myopia is at low levels, it is pivotal to go for eye examinations regularly and adopt good eye care habits to prevent it from advancing. 

How can we treat myopia? 

1. Regular eye check ups are key to good eye health 

Going for comprehensive eye checks regularly is important regardless of whether your child wears spectacles. 

If you are looking to get your child’s eyes checked, book an appointment at your nearest optometry clinic using plano Eyecheck. plano Eyecheck has partnered with Nanyang Optical, W Optics, Videre Eyecare and Optic Point to bring eye exams closer to you at an affordable price. For a limited time only, all appointments made using the plano Eyecheck platform will receive a S$50 voucher to cover the cost of the eye check-up. Simply visit planoeyecheck.com and select your nearest optometry clinic the on-site map to book for an appointment.

2. Encourage your child to take breaks when doing near-work activities

Going outdoors to take a walk serves as a great way for your child’s eye to take a break from being glued to their work or phone screens. Increased exposure to light can increase release of retinal transmitter dopamine (yes, the same chemical that is released when we are happy!), reducing the progression of myopia. 

Adopting these habits on a regular basis can help to slow down the progression of myopia and reduce the risk of developing high myopia. 

Say MY(NO)PIA.

For some, there’s no pressing pause on games and this can come with some detrimental consequences.

“You know you are in a game and this isn’t real, right?”

Said by the one and only, Professor Plano.

Games serve as a great escape from our daily stressors – from fantasy realms to compelling storylines, the games that we play open up a portal to another world. However, some people are unable to exit that portal. Just like how Zed literally got sucked into the game in The Never Ending Game, some gamers struggle to press pause on their games.

According to Business Insider Singapore, Singaporeans spend 7.44 hours each week playing video games. Notably, it was found that 51% of Singaporean sacrificed sleep, while over 38% skipped meals, and even 31% missed a shower just to play games. It was also found that 37% chose to play games over socialising with their loved ones. Based on these staggering statistics, it’s obvious that games can consume a person’s life to the point where everything else surrounding them blurs into the background.

While whole family eating talking having breakfast, little preschool son in glasses holding using smartphone looking at screen. Bad habit overuse of devices and gadgets, mobile phone addiction concept

When a person’s life becomes enmeshed with the games they play, it can be difficult to escape the virtual clutches of the glowing screen. Such is the life of a teenager named KC, who recounted his experience with gaming addiction on Channel News Asia. The teenager admitted that he struggled with gaming addiction for 4 years. During these trying 4 years, his love for games affected his relationships with his family. Resultantly, his family took drastic measures to curb his addiction. KC finally attended a 7-month treatment to overcome his gaming addiction in 2016. 

Games come with an extra life, but your life doesn’t.

When you lose a game, you can easily restart it and try again. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. As demonstrated, gaming addiction can cause you to lose out on a lot of chances in real life – from socialising with your loved ones, to taking care of your own health. And once these opportunities are lost, you won’t be able to get these chances back.

In The Never Ending Game, after Zed is saved by Professor Plano and Zee, they still have to defeat the Grand Master of the game – Lord Myopic! Lord Myopic hopes to trap everyone in the game, and it’s up to our heroes to thwart his plans. Fortunately, our heroes manage to find a way to do so. They remind the rest of the players who were trapped in the game to use their MyPower to take control of their games. After all, we are the ones who are in control of the game, not the other way round.

If you would like to purchase The Never Ending Game or any of the other 4 books in The Plano Adventures book series, you may find them in Singapore at Kinokuniya, Times Bookstores, and at Popular. Alternatively, buy them online on Amazon or Book Depository

Gaming addiction has been classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a mental health disease. If you, or someone you know is affected by gaming addiction, please consult your nearest medical health professional for help. 

This may be an unpopular opinion, but control is good. When it comes to our child’s smartphone use, control is often necessary.

What’s in a word?

Let’s talk about the word ‘control’ for a bit. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, ‘control’ can be used as a noun or a verb. Usually, it is used to mean having power or influence over something or someone. When we think of being controlled, we think of ourselves being at the mercy of someone who holds a higher authority than us.

Now put control between ‘parental’ and ‘apps’ and you have: parental control apps. Often used as a measure to monitor a child’s smartphone use, parental control apps are typically met with resentment from children. Why?

It’s because of the word, ‘control’. Naturally, people don’t like to be controlled. According to psychologist, Dr. Golden, feeling like you’re being controlled can spark anger and frustration because it can feel as though you’re being manipulated. So, when your child feels like they’re being controlled through an app, they react with intense feelings of annoyance and resentment.

Change their perspective.

As mentioned earlier however, control is good; necessary in fact. Telling your child that you’re installing a parental control app on their phone however, is often met with protestations. So how do you go about broaching this touchy subject with your child?

Try to empathise with your child first. Reassure them that you have times when you find yourself engrossed with your phone too (think work, entertainment, social media, etc.). However, that doesn’t mean you focus all your attention on the phone and neglect everyone else around you. The app is therefore there to remind your child to use his/her phone in moderation.

Parental control apps like the plano app allow you as a parent, to set no-device time schedules. For instance, if your child is constantly bringing his/her phone to the dinner table to use, you can use the app to lock the device during dinner. After establishing empathy, tell your child that this isn’t done to spoil their fun, but to help him/her develop the right device habits. Being responsible for his/her own device use helps your child to understand the importance of taking ownership for his/her own actions as well.

As parents, we’re naturally concerned with our child’s health too. Spending prolonged periods of time on devices can also be detrimental to one’s eye health. Children who spend extended hours staring at their tiny screens are susceptible to developing conditions like myopia.

According to plano’s report, excessive near work activity such as smartphone use can heighten the progression of myopia. The plano app prompts your child every 30 minutes to take a break from their phones and rest their eyes. It also reminds your child to place their phones at a good distance of 30cm away from their eyes to reduce strain and stress on their eyes. Let your child know that parental control apps like plano aren’t there to be a nag, but to protect and safeguard their eye health.

If your child follows all these reminders and prompts from the plano app, they get to earn points. These points can be used in the plano Shop where your child can request for fun device-free activities like football classes, or outdoor playground passes – a great way to motivate your child to take breaks from his/her phone!

Control isn’t all that bad.

Control is good. It sets rules and boundaries to keep your child safe and responsible. It is however important for your child to understand the rationale behind the control. Once they understand your perspective and your good intentions, chances are, they’ll be more open to parental control apps.

At the end of the day, we do all things with love and care for our children. It’s therefore important to translate this to them. They’re our bundle of joy after all, and we want the best for them.

Your kids have gone digital, you’ve gone digital, your parenting friend has also gone digital. Enter your next best parenting friend – the prime iPhone monitoring apps!

Does your child like your new friend?

Children tend to exhibit shy behaviour when they meet new people. So what happens when you introduce your new digital friend to them? Obviously, they’ll be hesitant about the encounter. And when you tell them this new friend will be monitoring their smartphone-use? Immediate protestations: “No, I don’t want it!” or, “Delete it, delete it now, mum please!”

It’s unsurprising, really. Children want to be afforded privacy, and they should be. We adults want our privacy, so why can’t our children? In these situations, it’s important to let your child know it’s not that you want to pry into their lives. Rather, you just want them to use their phones more responsibly.

Introduce your new-found iPhone Monitoring app like you’re introducing an aunt or uncle. Let them know that just like cool Aunt Clara or Uncle Damien, the app isn’t there to limit their fun. They can continue to watch their favourite cartoons or play the latest iPhone game. However, aunts and uncles are always there to keep us in good step – They’re the ones we turn to when we need a lead defense against mum or dad, but they’re also the first ones to call us out when we make a mistake. They also tell mum or dad to go easy on us.

In the same vein, iPhone monitoring apps can help remind your child to put down their phones when the time is up. They can help you to set device-free timings so that your child can focus on other things besides their screens. iPhone monitoring apps like the plano app can do just that.

The plano app goes one step further – it puts your child’s eye health at the forefront. Plano reminds your child to place their phones at least 30cm away from their eyes, and to take an eye break every 30 minutes. Eye breaks and adequate distance between their eyes and the screens help to prevent eye conditions like myopia, from progressing.

Friends come and go, but parents always stay.

While iPhone monitoring tools are a great digital assistance, it’s important to remember that you are still the head honcho in charge. Downloading all the iPhone monitoring tools can prove to be helpful in one way, but you play the most pivotal role in your child’s life. One day, we want our children to be able to use their digital devices responsibly on their own. But before we expect them to, we ought to evaluate our own phone use.

If you want your child to keep the phone away and focus at dinner, make sure you do that too. If you want your child to limit their time on their phones, make sure you do that too. If you want your child to stop mindlessly scrolling through social media – yes, you guessed it – make sure you do that too. Remember, at the end of the day, you are your child’s role model. 

In Trouble in Murktown, our heroes reminded us to take breaks from our bottle-bottle screens. But is there something else that we can do to take care of our eyes?

Checking on those murky eyes

The first book, Trouble in Murktown, brought us readers on an eye-opening adventure through Murktown. Zed and Zee used their Clear Vision power to lift the fog from Murktown and inspired its residents to take breaks from their Bottle-Bottle screens.

Taking breaks from our Bottle-Bottle screens are a good way to help give our eyes a break, but what happens when our eyes still continue being murky (blurry)? Well, getting your eyes checked is your best bet!

An eye check is one of the best ways to prevent myopia from progressing. During an eye check, an optometrist will arrange some tests to be done on your eyes. These tests include vision acuity tests, colour vision tests, and many more. These tests help your optometrist determine the likelihood of contracting myopia, or on the progress of your myopia.

Why eye checks are important

Attending an annual eye check has a profound impact on your eye health and overall well-being. Just like how we tend to visit the dentist once (and maybe even twice) a year, we should make it point to visit the optometrist yearly.

Bringing our children to visit an optometrist can help examine if their eyes are ready for school. Most of our children’s learning and extra-curricular activities require good eyesight. From reading the white board to participating in activities like swimming and dancing, having good eyesight is always a plus. If any eye health ailments are found, an optometrist can help treat these issues immediately before it progresses further.

If your child is affected with myopia, visiting an optometrist yearly also helps to monitor its development. Children who are afflicted with myopia at a young age tend to experience a rapid decline in their eye health as they get older. If this goes unchecked for extended periods of time, your child may grow to become more susceptible to high myopia. Therefore, attending regular and timely eye checks is important to determine your child’s progression of myopia and even other eye health maladies. If you would like to attend an eye check, you can book an appointment here!

What about the citizens of Murktown?

Now, imagine if the citizens of Murktown each received an eye check – how would they fare? Will they have perfect 20-20 vision, or will they be affected with myopia? Whatever it is, as long as they continue practicing the Clear Vision Recipe, their eyes will definitely be in good stead! The same goes for you and your children – it’s important to practice all the ingredients in the Clear Vision Recipe to safeguard your eyes from myopia.

If you would like to purchase Trouble in Murktown, or any of the other 4 books in The Plano Adventures book series, you may find them in Singapore at Kinokuniya, Times Bookstores, and at Popular. Alternatively, buy them online on Amazon or Book Depository

https://giphy.com/gifs/copycat-LYL3J9sze4dZC


Our children are the biggest copycats. By watching what we do – our behaviours, actions and mannerisms – they learn a great deal about how to react to the world around them. As such, it is only natural that they pick up our bad habits along with the good ones – like our smartphone addiction.

How can you work together as a family to kick the habit?

Turn off your notifications.

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We’re not saying to turn of your notifications all the time; just when it matters. Sure, it may be hard at first, but the psychological and health implications of the phenomenon known as technoferance (disruption caused by technology) are profound. 

Moreover, checking your notifications during important moments like family dinner and outings can signal to your children that they’re in the clear to behave similarly too. As such, it can be useful to create a set of ground rules when it comes to device use (especially during family time) which everyone (yes, you too) follows.

Get some phone-free shut-eye.

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What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? For many of us, our mornings may look like this:

*Phone alarm goes off*

*Snooze the alarm* x5 (every 5 minutes)

*Fully awake after turning off the 6th alarm*

*Phone in hand, you proceed to scroll through Instagram, check your flurry of emails, read the news etc.*

So basically, you start your day off with your eyes trained on your tiny screen. This may be true for your little one as well. 

Good Morning Ugh GIF by Demic - Find & Share on GIPHY

Fight yours and your kid’s smartphone addiction by starting the day off screen-free! Get your entire family alarm clocks and encourage a phone-free sleep and rise. That way, there will be no temptation to check your devices in the morning!

Choose life over screens.


Have you ever wondered how much time you and your kids are spending on your smart devices? Sure, there are apps that track screen usage a day. What about over your entire lifetimes? What are you trading off over your life by staring at a tiny screen? 

That’s exactly the question we asked ourselves and the reason why we developed and launched The Plano Timemachine. In essence, it calculates in 60s, how much time you will spend staring at your tiny screen, over your entire lifetime. Beyond that, it gives you a personalised recommendation on how to improve your results. 

The first step to solving any problem is realising it exists in the first place. If you feel that your kid’s smartphone addiction is getting out of hand, as a first step, get them to try the Time Machine and see the real impacts their devices will have on their lives! A little insight will go a long way – empower them to choose their lives over screens!

Pay Me Kim Kardashian GIF by GQ - Find & Share on GIPHY

For a limited time only, we are giving away $500 to one lucky time machine user! Simply send a screenshot of your time machine results to our Instagram or Facebook account for 1 chance to enter the contest! For additional chances, click here. *Contest is valid for Singaporean users only. Contest ends 1 Jan 2359, so hurry! Time is of the essence. Terms and conditions apply.

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It all boils down to whether children view app blockers as a measure of safety or surveillance. 

As parents, we want the best for our child. With the prevalence of smartphones and its increased usage among children nowadays, it’s normal for us parents to worry about our child’s online safety.

As such, the block apps feature serves as a great way to protect your child from being exposed to controversial content and addictive applications. Blocking apps can also be beneficial in curbing your child’s temptations to use social media applications everyday. It saves them from being glued to their phones, at the expense of time spent with friends, family and on their academics. 

Given their benefits, how do children feel about the block apps function?

Unfortunately, while parents’ minds are at ease knowing their child is safe on the internet, children feel increasingly constricted with app blockers. According to a study by researchers, 35% of the children felt that apps were too restrictive. Furthermore, some app blockers were so restrictive that the children were unable to access their school resources, such as their homework. 

Children want privacy – or need them?

Some children have also left reviews on parental control apps stating that parents are infringing on their privacy. In this tech-savvy generation, the conversations children have mainly reside in Whatsapp chats or Instagram DMs (direct messaging tool). It is one of the ways they can connect with their friends and catch up with them when they are swamped with school assignments or external commitments. When parents install app blockers, children lose the opportunity to communicate freely or create memories. 

Understanding the reasons why many children dislike to block apps is more than the fact that they limit screen time and privacy. Children are in the process of constructing their social identity online by figuring out when and how to reveal information about themselves through online communication. Surveillance from parents places more stress on children, because they can now track their every move. 

It is a natural parental instinct to find out what your child is up to – but should it come at the cost of their personal space?

What can parents do to ensure block apps are used in a more constructive manner?

Transform the chiding into positive words of encouragement.

Sometimes as parents, what we say is not what our children want to hear. At the dinner table, we might want to cry out ‘Hey Jack, stop using your phone!’ Negative sounding words like ‘stop’ and ‘don’t’ can make it difficult to get through to children. What they might prefer to hear is ‘Hey Jack, would you mind using your phone after dinner instead? Thank you.’’

The words you use with your children have a significant impact on the way they behave. It has been proven their behavioral characteristics are influenced by the way they are treated by their parents, in addition to their genetic makeup. Hence, if your child doesn’t realize that their addiction is a problem, it is essential that parents use positive words and communicate with them before downloading app blockers on their phones.

All in all, block apps are useful in terms of controlling unhealthy habits. Some teens even download such apps themselves to limit their screen time usage. However, it is important to consider what your child is going through before making a decision. It would also be of benefit to explain the block apps function so that it helps your child better understand your intentions. 

The plano app has a block apps feature that allows you to prevent your child from accessing certain apps. There’s also a device schedule function which gives you the ability to determine when your child can use their devices. These features are, however, subject to your device’s technical specifications.

This vision care specialist describes what she does and why it’s important to take your toddler for an eye check!

Impressed with the optometry booth at a local polytechnic, Iryn Gan, (now 34), decided to pursue this career option.

“The course is very specialised and it covers detection of eye diseasesmanagement of eye complications, the prescription of eyewear and more,” Gan says.

After graduating with a diploma in optometry, Gan decided to get a degree in the subject at Cardiff University in the UK.

Today as a consultant with Johnson & Johnson Vision Care (Acuvue) Singapore, Gan provides training to optometrists, opticians and optometry students. She helps them improve their skills and updates them on the latest contact lens technology in the market.

In particular, Gan says it’s important to stop childhood eye problems from progressing. “Singapore has one of the highest rates of childhood myopia in the world, even though the Health Promotion Board recently reported that the rate has remained stable over the past decade,” she notes.

Hi Iryn, could you tell us more about your job scope and what a typical day is like for you?

As a consultant, I visit optometrists in optical shops to share my experiences and practice management techniques, so as to enhance their clinical skills. I am also a visiting optometrist at United Eyecare (@unitedeyecare), and through this, I am able to keep in touch with the optical retail industry to better understand the challenges faced by optometrists and opticians. I’m also a mum of two, so I’m constantly trying to juggle work and family life!

Young children who develop myopia early in life tend to have higher eye degrees and face a higher risk of eye problems later in life.

Indeed, since you’re a mum yourself, what are some of the most pressing eye issues/problems you see with kids today?

Young children who develop myopia early in life tend to have higher eye degrees and face a higher risk of eye problems later in life. It is very important to control the progression of childhood myopia as it can progress very quickly.

Strabismus (squint), amblyopia (lazy eye) and color vision deficiency are also quite common in children. Early detection is important because treatment tends to be more effective when the child is younger. Untreated strabismus and amblyopia may lead to permanent visual impairment.

Since you mentioned myopia, is there any way to stop it from progressing?

The ways to control myopia progression includes practising good eye care habits, wearing myopia control glasses or special contact lenses, and using atropine eye drops. Parents should talk to their eye care professional to decide which method best suits their needs.

How early should kids be going to get their eyes checked?

A child’s first eye exam should occur before entering kindergarten or by age 5. Myopia is genetic, which means that children with myopic parents have higher chance of being myopic. These kids should get their eyes checked at age 3 or 4.

If a parent notices any eye problems, they should have their child examined right away, so that the problem doesn’t become permanent. Any undetected and uncorrected vision problems in the child could result in developmental delays and learning difficulties.

What are signs of eye problems in children?

Signs that a child may have vision problems include constant eye rubbing, squinting, poor focusing, poor eye tracking (following an object), abnormal eye alignment or movement, and the inability to see objects clearly at a distance or near.

Any undetected and uncorrected vision problems in the child could result in developmental delays and learning difficulties.

What can parents expect when they bring their kids to get their eyes checked?

Parents should bring their kids to see optometrists who use child-friendly tools to make the visit pleasant and engaging. During the consultation, the optometrist will assess the kid’s vision, refractive errors (eye power), eye-focusing skills, eye alignment, colour vision and 3D vision. A referral might be made to an eye doctor if any serious eye problems are suspected during the eye examination.

Some kids may be afraid of going to the optometrist, especially when they see all the different equipment being used to check their eyes. How would you allay their fears?

When scheduling an exam for a child, parent should choose a time when the child is usually alert and happy, usually in the morning or after nap time. Before the eye exam, I would always take time to discuss with the child what will happen during the eye exam. I also use kid-friendly tools to assess their vision, to make them feel more comfortable and happy. Some of my young patients think the eye exam is a “play session”!

Care to share one of your most memorable patients/cases?

I had a patient with red eyes coming to see me because she couldn’t see well even after wearing contact lenses or glasses. After the eye exam, I told her to stop wearing contact lenses and see an eye doctor immediately. She had a corneal ulcer in one eye and mild corneal abrasion in the other eye. The patient had purchased her contact lenses online without going through a proper eye examination. The contact lenses did not fit well in her eyes. She ended up having a permanent corneal scarring and partial vision loss in one eye.

Yikes! So, what advice do you have for people looking to switch to contact lenses?

Contact lenses are classified as medical devices in Singapore. Contact lens wearers should consult a qualified optometrist or contact lens practitioner before buying contact lenses. One size fits all doesn’t apply when it comes to contact lenses. The optometrist or contact lens practitioner will perform a thorough eye health and contact lens examination and advise the wearer on the most suitable lenses that suit their needs and lifestyle.

Spending time outdoors as a child can delay or even prevent myopia as natural light may be essential for normal eye development in kids.

Let’s talk more about your role as a parent ― from the perspective of a mum, do you worry about their eyesight?

I have a 2-year-old son, Leroy, and a 4-year-old daughter, Janelle. My husband and I are nature lovers. We love bringing our kids outdoors to play. Spending time outdoors as a child can delay or even prevent myopia as natural light may be essential for normal eye development in kids. Children should spend 2 to 3 hours outdoors daily (or at least 14 hours a week). However, with our hectic lifestyles in Singapore, it is difficult to fulfil the daily quota! So, my husband and I always bring our kids to the playground, park or beach during weekends.

Do you need to take any precautions when you’re out in the sun?

Yes, spending too much time outdoors without proper ultraviolet (UV) protection can damage the skin and eyes! Children are more vulnerable to UV damage because their pupils are larger and their lenses in the eyes are clearer. Hence, UV protection is extremely important. Let your children wear sunglasses with UV protection and/or a hat. Also remember to apply sunscreen to protect the delicate skin! If your child is wearing contact lenses, contact lenses with UV blockers can provide additional UV protection as a complement to sunglasses.

What other advice do you have for parents who want to protect their kids’ eyesight?

For school-aged kids, it is important to remind them to take frequent visual breaks. Reading, drawing or playing tablet games doesn’t constitute a break. Parents can use the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something at least 20 feet [6m] away. Parents themselves should also practise this rule to prevent eye strain and eye fatigue!

Other than spending more time outdoors and taking frequent visual breaks, I also teach my kids to adopt healthy eye care habits like keeping the book at arm’s length while reading, sitting at least 2m away from the television, and eating more fruits and vegetables! Most importantly, I bring them for an eye examination at least once a year.

Photos: Iryn Gan, Instagram/United Eyecare

This article first appeared on SmartParents. Written by Melissa Tan.