IS SCREEN TIME CREATING DIGITAL EYE STRAIN IN CHILDREN?
You’ve probably felt it before after a long day looking at your computer screen or spending too much time on your smart phone – digital eye strain. Perhaps your child received a new electronic device for Christmas and now they seem glued to the new tablet or phone. Did you know that your kids could be dealing with digital eye strain too?
Between school and home, kids are using tablets, smartphones, computers, and other digital devices at an alarming rate. In fact, they’re probably getting more digital device time than you are. All that computer usage at school along with hours of video games, surfing social media on smartphones and watching television could be damaging the eyes of your children.
EYE STRAIN IS TOUGH ON DEVELOPING EYES IN YOUNG CHILDREN
Eye strain is bad for the eyes, but it’s particularly tough on the eyes of a child because they are still developing. When kids deal with eye strain, they may deal with symptoms like blurry vision, problems shifting their focus to items in the distance, eye fatigue, back and neck pain, headaches, and eye dryness.
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.
Not knowing the difference, 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. They lack the ability to know when to take a break from the screen which can result in eye strain and dry eyes. Since children usually think that everyone sees the same way they do, their vision problems are often left undetected and untreated.
Too much screen time can result in digital eyestrain, which can include burning, itchy, or tired eyes. Headaches, fatigue, blurred or double vision, loss of focus, and head and neck pain are other threats for children using screens too often and too long.
TIPS TO PREVENT EYE STRAIN
- Monitor Screen Time. Since spending a lot of time looking at digital screens can be tough on a child’s eyes, it’s important to limit digital device time to prevent eye strain.
- Exercise. Get kids outside regularly. They’re less likely to develop nearsightedness if they spend more time playing outside. When your kids do use digital devices, ensure they’re taking regular breaks.
- Take Breaks. Every 20 minutes, teach your child to look away at their screen at something that’s about 20 feet away. Ask your child to remember to blink. This gives the eyes a break and reduces the risk of digital eye strain.
- Ergonomics. Screen positioning. Make sure the screen on your child’s desktop or laptop computer is slightly below eye level. Looking up at a screen opens eyes wider and dries them out quicker.
- Sleep. Not getting enough shut-eye leads to tired, sore eyes. The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children not sleep with devices in their bedrooms, including TVs, computers, and smartphones. In addition, the AAP recommends avoiding exposure to screens for 1 hour before going to bed. Using devices past bedtime, especially for violent video games or shows, can interfere with sleep. Studies also suggest the blue light given off by screens might also make it difficult to sleep.
It’s important to schedule routine eye exams for your kids to ensure their eyes are healthy and developing as they should. Regular eye care now can ensure your child has healthy vision for life. For questions or concerns regarding your child’s eye health, or to schedule an appointment, call our offices at 724-443-6767 or 724-226-0444.
About the author: John D. Bissell, owner of Bissell Eye Care and Tri-State Low Vision Services, offers comprehensive eye examinations for the entire family, ocular disease detection and treatment, eye glasses, sun glasses, active wear, contact lenses, and low vision examinations for those with significant vision loss. He has undergone specialized training for treatment of low vision by the International Academy of Low Vision Specialists utilizing customized telescopic eyeglasses, prisms and telescopic implants for patients who qualify. The practice accepts most types of vision and health insurance plans.