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6 steps to ease your child’s eye strain from screen use
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6 steps to ease your child’s eye strain from screen use

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Experts suspect an increase of screen time, whether it be from work or play, in children will increasingly impact eyesight. Veuer’s Chloe Hurst has the story!

Children spend more time than ever staring at digital screens — on computers, tablets, TVs, smartphones and other devices.

Amid the pandemic, children are spending even more time on their laptops and computers if they are doing virtual learning.

All that screen time can take a toll on children’s well-being, including how their eyes may feel.

Laptop

Research shows that children begin zooming in on digital media devices, such as their parents’ tablets or smartphones, as young as 6 months old.

By their teens, studies have found, kids spend nearly 7 hours a day using screen-based media, watching TV, playing video games and using social media.

Especially if they’re having fun, children might keep playing and watching to the point of eye-rubbing exhaustion.

To help ease children’s eye strain, parents can do the following things:

Monitor screen time

The American Academy of Pediatrics family media use plan and related reports target problems ranging from obesity to poor sleep linked to too much screen time.

Although children’s screen time has understandably increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, the AAP encourages parents to do their best to help keep some balance between the digital and real world.

Two especially important aspects of this are making sure screen time doesn’t cut into exercise and sleep.

Encourage breaks

Children frequently get so absorbed in what they’re doing that they don’t notice symptoms of eye strain. Remind them to take breaks.

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 them remember, or software programs can turn off the screen at intervals.

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 lighting in the room. 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 windows, lamps and overhead fixtures isn’t shining directly on screens.

Decrease the brightness of the screen to a more comfortable level for viewing.

Some optometrists recommend special computer glasses with orange lenses that may help reduce glare. Children who wear prescription eyeglasses may have an anti-reflective coating added, as well.

Computer monitor hoods or shades may also be a good option.

Remind them to blink

Research published in The New England Journal of Medicine says staring at a computer can cut blinking rates by half and cause dry eyes.

Encourage your child to try to blink often, especially when they take breaks. Your pediatrician or eye doctor may recommend moisturizing eye drops or a room humidifier if your child continues to be bothered by dry eyes.

Focusing on a screen for long, unbroken stretches can cause irritating eye problems, such as:

Eye fatigue: Eye muscles can get tired, resulting in concentration difficulties and headaches around the temple and eyes. Children may also use screen devices where lighting isn’t ideal, causing fatigue from squinting.

Blurry vision: Gazing at the same distance for a long time can cause the eye’s focusing system to spasm or temporarily “lock up.” This condition, called an accommodation spasm, causes vision to blur upon looking away.

Dry eyes: People blink less when concentrating on a screen, which can leave eyes dry and irritated. Computer use can be especially tough on children’s eyes; the higher visual field opens eyes wider and speeds up tear evaporation.

Get regular vision screenings

If your child is having blurry vision or similar eye problems, they may not speak up. That’s why regular vision screenings are important.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the AAP recommend children have their eyes checked by a pediatrician beginning at birth. If a problem is found during one of these routine eye exams, your pediatrician may refer you to a pediatric ophthalmologist.

If you have any questions about keeping your child’s eyes and vision healthy during the pandemic, talk with your pediatrician.

Dr. Geoff Bradford teaches ophthalmology and pediatrics at West Virginia University, leads the residency program there and serves as the Department of Ophthalmology’s vice chair for education.

Here are tips from experts to ensure kids get the most out of school even though they’re at home:

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