New research from Specsavers reveals that as many as one in three Australian children have never had an eye test (32%). This is despite the recommended age for a first eye test being three years old, and that some eye conditions that can be detected during a comprehensive eye check have no visible symptoms at all.

The YouGov research, which was commissioned by Specsavers in March 2018, involved an online survey of a nationally representative sample of Australian parents aged 18 years and older with a child aged 14 years or younger. The sample was 1,015 respondents, distributed throughout Australia including both capital city and non-capital city areas.

Key findings included that:

  • 63% of parents believe that sight is the most important sense for their child
  • 32% of children aged 14 and younger have never had an eye test
  • The main reasons why parents with children have not taken their child for an eye test are because they don’t think there is anything wrong with their eyes (48%), they’ve never really thought about it (38%), and because their child is too young to have their eyes tested (31%)
  • 37% of Australian children who have had their eyes tested have not had an eye test in the recommended last two years (13% have taken their child for an eye test less frequently than every two years and 24% say their child has only had their eyes tested once)
  • Two thirds of parents (69%) don’t think they will be out of pocket if they take their child for an eyesight test as it will be bulk-billed through Medicare, however 31% either think they will be charged for an eye test or don’t know if it will cost them
  • Parents are more likely to take their child regularly to a doctor’s appointment (67%) or a dental appointment (46%) than to see an optometrist (27%).

Commenting on the results, Specsavers Optometrist Naomi Barber said, “It’s worrying to see that even today, almost one in three children have still never had an eye test. Early detection of any eye condition is critical, but with children we have a window of opportunity, before they are eight years old, to identify and treat common eye conditions such as myopia and lazy eye, which can have no obvious symptoms.

“Undiagnosed eye conditions in children, like myopia, can severely impair a child’s education and wellbeing. Our research found that as many as one in five parents are unaware that learning difficulties can often be a result of poor eyesight caused by an eye condition. This can be especially true for young children, who may find it hard to explain the difficulties they are experiencing or may be unaware they have a problem at all, making tests at a young age even more critical.

“While good vision is obviously important for education and learning, eye health can have wider impacts on a child’s development – everything from sport to social engagement. The signs of eye conditions and sight loss can be hard to spot, often having no visible symptoms at all, so it’s important we remind parents about the importance of regular eye checks.”

Specsavers has teamed up with YouTube sensation Sabre Norris and her family (‘The Norris Nuts’ – known for their candid YouTube videos, surfing, skateboarding, and appearances on Ellen DeGeneres, amongst others) to encourage parents to commit to taking their children for an eye test.

Brooke Norris, mother of sisters Sabre (13), Sockie (10) and Naz (6), said, “As parents who have both had eye conditions in the past, we have to confess to overlooking getting our children’s eyes tested … Children don’t know their eyesight is suffering, and because it can be something that’s not physical or painful, it’s hard for us as parents to see it too.”

Sabre added, “I didn’t even know there was a problem with my eyes until I tried on Sockie’s glasses and everything looked so much better! We all went for eye tests and now Sockie, Naz and I all need glasses, but no one knew until we went to get our eyes tested.”

Naomi said, “We want to encourage parents to get their own eyes and their child’s eyes tested, not just to check for any potential vision problems, but also to detect any potential abnormalities or diseases before it’s too late. Prevention is better than cure.”