Can you help keep your child’s eyes from hurting after long hours of screen time?
Our children spend a great deal of time looking at screens – whether computers, tablets, TVs, smartphones and others. This has escalated during these Covid times, especially with on-line schooling.
Long hours of focussing on screens can cause eye strain. Dr Geoff Bradford , a Paediatrician, says that symptoms of this include:
- Eye fatigue. Muscles around the eye, like any others, can get tired from continued use. Concentrating on a screen for extended periods can cause concentration difficulties and headaches centred around the temple and eyes. Children may also use screen devices where lighting is less than ideal, causing fatigue from squinting.
- Blurry vision. Gazing at the same distance for long periods can cause the eye’s focusing system to spasm or temporarily “lock up.” This causes a child’s vision to blur when he or she looks away from the screen.
- Dry eyes. Studies show that people blink significantly less often when concentrating on a digital screen, which can leave eyes dry and irritated. Desktop and laptop computer usecan be especially tough on children’s eyes, because they’re usually situated higher up in the visual field than a book, for example. As a result, the upper eyelids tend to be open wider—speeding up evaporation of the eye’s tear film.
Here are some suggestions to help:
- Monitor screen time. Even though it is understandable that on-line learning necessitates more screen time, parents are encouraged to make sure screen time doesn’t intrude on exercise, play and sleep time.
- Remind children to take frequent breaks. Children frequently get so absorbed in what they’re doing that they don’t notice symptoms of eye strain. The American Optometric Association recommends the 20/20/20 rule: look away from the screen every 20 minutes, focus on an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds. In addition, children should walk away from the screen for at least 10 minutes every hour. A simple timer can help your child remember.
- Remind them to blink. Research published in The New England Journal of Medicinesays staring at a computer can cut blinking rates by half and cause dry eyes. If your child is bothered by dry eyes, your optometrist or paediatrician may recommend eye drops or a room humidifier.
- Position screens correctly. 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. Adjusting the font size, especially on smaller screens, so it’s twice as big as your child can comfortably read may also help to reduce eye fatigue.
- Improve the lighting. To cut down on glare and eye fatigue, consider the level of lighting in the room when using a computer or other screen. Ideally, it should be roughly half what it would be for other activities such as writing on paper or working on crafts. Try to position computers so that light from uncovered windows, lamps and overhead light fixtures isn’t shining directly on screens. Decrease the brightness of the screen to a more comfortable level for viewing. Children who wear prescription eyeglasses may have an anti-reflective coating added, as well. Computer monitor hoods or shades that attach to the screen may also be a good option.
- Have your child’s vision checked annually. If your child is having blurry vision or similar eye problems, he or she may not speak up. That’s why it’s important to arrange for regular eye-checks to pick up possible problems.