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Let’s face it, we spend more time on our screens these days. Remote learning, COVID restrictions and working from home has forced us to spend more time on screens this year. As adults, we recognize the need for increased screen time during these unprecedented times. However, we worry about the impact of increased screen time on our children’s eyes. 

Complaints about Increased Screen Time

The pandemic forced more children to learn remotely, and one common complaint that we continue to hear from parents is that their children have dry and tired eyes.  It’s important to note that both children and adults have eye issues as well from increased screen time, including headaches, blurry vision and tired, dry eyes. 

One of the reasons for eye discomfort during screen time is we don’t blink as often while using computer screens/tablets/phones, which causes dry and irritated eyes. When we focus at the same distance for a long period of time, it can cause our vision to blur temporarily, and the muscles around the eye to tire, which also can cause headaches. Extended reading, writing or close-up work can also cause eye strain.

So what can you do?

The American Optometric Association recommends the 20/20/20 rule. This rule says you should look away from the screen every 20 minutes and focus on an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. It’s harder with schoolwork, but ask children to walk away from the screen for at least 10 minutes every hour.

You can help your child (and yourself) remember this by doing the following: 

  • Set a timer for eye breaks every 20 minutes. Get outside, walk around the house, or at the very minimum, have your child look away from the screen for a bit (20/20/20 rule) before getting back to schoolwork. 
  • Have your child switch from the screen to a regular book for an eye break. Click here to learn more about Boulder and Longmont Eye Care

Additional Ways to Help

We’ve all caught ourselves straining our necks to look at our phones or using poor posture to work on a laptop. Our children are just like us and don’t always use good posture with devices. Help make sure that your child has a good ergonomic setup for school work at home. Think of this space as their “work desk” to make sure that the distance from your child to the screen works well ergonomically. 

Here are some helpful tips: 

  • Screen positioning: Make sure they view laptops or tablets at arm’s length, roughly 18 to 24 inches from where they’re sitting. Position the monitor at eye level, directly in front of the body. 
  • Screen glare: Reduce screen glare by placing the light source behind your child’s back instead of behind the laptop or computer monitor. Using a screen outside can also strain eyes because of sun glare. 
  • Screen brightness: Help your child to adjust the screen brightness and contrast for his/her eye comfort.
  • Lighting: Have your child use devices in a well-lit room. If the room is too dark, the pupil expands so the brightness of the screen can irritate eyes.
  • Bedtime: Put the screen away before bed. Kids and adults both use devices before bed, but it’s best to tuck your device away at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Your phone also may have a “night mode” if you or your child must use a device before bed. 
  • Reminders: Younger children will need more friendly reminders about how to use screens in a healthy way. 
  • Don’t forget to blink: Reminding your children to blink, especially during eye breaks, can help with dry eyes. 

Hopefully you can implement some of these strategies to reduce your worry and help your child reduce eye strain. If you have additional eye questions, we’re only a phone call away

References

https://www.aao.org/newsroom/news-releases/detail/ophthalmologists-anticipate-eye-strain-complaints

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/eyes/Pages/What-Too-Much-Screen-Time-Does-to-Your-Childs-Eyes.aspx#:~:text=Children%20frequently%20get%20so%20absorbed,for%20at%20least%2020%20seconds.