Mind & Body
Is Too Much Screen Time Harming Children’s Vision? Separating Fact from Fiction
9/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
Eye Strain

As children spend more time in front of various screens, there is increasing concern about potential harm to their visual development. Ophthalmologists see a marked increase in children with dry eye and eye strain from too much screen time, but does digital eyestrain cause lasting damage? 

Now that kids are back in school and have more time with screens and books, doctors at The Eye Clinic want to arm parents with the facts, so they can make informed choices about their children’s eye health.

"It’s a fact that there is a world-wide epidemic of myopia, also known as nearsightedness,’” says Marcy Hanudel, MD, ophthalmologist with The Eye Clinic.  "Since 1971, the incidence of nearsightedness in the U.S. nearly doubled to 42 percent. Clearly, something is going on. But researchers don’t agree on exactly what.”

A new study published in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, offers further evidence that at least part of the worldwide increase in nearsightedness has to do with near work activities; not just screens but also traditional books. And, that spending time outdoors—especially in early childhood—can slow the progression of nearsightedness. It remains unclear whether the rise in nearsightedness is due to focusing on phones all the time, or to light interacting with our circadian rhythms to influence eye growth, or none of the above.

While scientists look for a definitive answer, Dr. Hanudel says there is no doubt that most computer users experience digital eyestrain. "Kids are no different from adults when it comes to digital eyestrain. They can experience dry eye, eye strain, headaches, and blurry vision, too. While symptoms are typically temporary, they may be frequent and persistent.”

Dr. Hanudel says this doesn’t mean they need a prescription for computer glasses or that they have developed an eye condition of middle-age that requires reading glasses, as some suggest. It also doesn’t mean that blue light coming from computer screens is damaging their eyes. "It means they need to take more frequent breaks,” she stresses. "This is because we don’t blink as often while using computers and other digital devices. Extended reading, writing or other intensive near work can also cause eye strain. We recommend taking a 20-second break from near work every 20 minutes.”

For more information about children’s eye health and vision problems, call The Eye Clinic nearest you or visit www.TheEyeClinic.net.

Here are 10 tips to help protect your child’s eyes from computer eyestrain:

1. Set a kitchen timer or a smart device timer to remind them.

2. Alternate reading an e-book with a real book and encourage kids to look up and out the window every two chapters.

3. After completing a level in a video game, look out the window for 20 seconds.

4. Pre-mark books with a paperclip every few chapters to remind your child to look up. On an e-book, use the "bookmark” function for the same effect.

5. Avoid using a computer outside or in brightly lit areas, as the glare on the screen can create strain.

6. Adjust the brightness and contrast of your computer screen so that it feels comfortable to you.

7. Use good posture when using a computer and when reading.

8. Encourage your child to hold digital media farther away, 18 to 24 inches is ideal.

9. Create a distraction that causes your child to look up every now and then.

10. Remind them to blink when watching a screen.

Posted by: Kristy Armand | Submit comment | Tell a friend


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