While most parents can remember a time before the internet, their children are true digital natives. Between smartphones, tablets and the rise of digital learning, kids are spending more time in front of screens than ever before, often 5-7 hours a day. This is having a profound impact on kids’ visual health. Studies indicate that as many as 93% of children are experiencing some degree of digital eye strain.
While digital eye strain hasn’t been linked to long-term degeneration, the immediate effects take a real toll on children’s wellbeing. Symptoms like burning, itchy or sore eyes, over-tearing, dryness, and headache are painful and disruptive. Many people suffering from digital eye strain develop an increased sensitivity to light, struggle to keep their eyes open and can even experience blurred or double vision. Digital eye strain also causes difficulty concentrating, making it hard for kids to keep up with the pace of learning.
Complete Eye Care of Medina wants to help parents learn the tools to keep their children’s eyes strong and healthy. Keep reading for our steps to protect your child from digital eye strain.
Keep a Screen Schedule
How much screen time is safe for children varies by factors such as age and type of use. Children should be introduced to screens at 18 months, and between 2-5 they should have no more than 2 hours of screen use each day. Avoid using screen time as a reward. As kids enter school and screens become a more prevalent part of their daily lives, limiting screens becomes more challenging. Track your child’s screen time and set screen-free blocks before and after school and during family meals.
Using screens before bed is a major culprit for digital eye strain and sleep disruption. Remove TVs and computers from your children’s bedrooms and set a phone and tablet bedtime, at least 30 minutes before your child’s actual bedtime. Having a charging station in a parents’ room can help avoid the temptation of sneaking one more scroll.
Talk through these boundaries with your children so they understand the reasoning and help them find other activities that keep them engaged.
Optimize Their Screens
A major element of digital eye strain comes from the light, tone, flicker and font size on screens. Help your child’s visual health by optimizing their screens for healthier use. Raising the contrast and making text larger will make less work for your child’s eyes. Make sure the brightness of their screen isn’t lighter or darker than their surroundings. Reduce the refresh rate on your child’s device to create less flickering on the screen. Lowering the color temperature of screens reduces the amount of blue light they cast, which is heavily linked to eye strain. Consider purchasing glare-reducing screen protectors and blue light-blocking glasses for added protection.
Encourage Healthy Screen Time Eye Habits
Another key in reducing digital eye strain is helping your child become more mindful of how they’re physically engaging with their screens by building healthy habits. Three helpful rules for engaging with screens are the 1-2-10 rule, the 20-20-20 rule, and the 2-15 rule. Make sure your child holds phones 1 foot away from their eyes, that they’re two feet away from computer screens, and that they sit 10 feet away from the television. For every 20 minutes your child spends engaged with their device, they should take a 20 second break to stare at something 20 feet away. During long stretches of use, make sure your child takes a 15 minute screen-free break every 2 hours.
It’s also important to remind your child to blink. Both analog and digital eye strain can be impacted by the reduced blink rate during visual concentration. As simple as it may sound, doing frequent “blink” checks will help them maintain healthy eye moisture.
Keep an Eye on Your Child’s Eyes With Complete Eye Care of Medina
Regular eye exams are an essential part of maintaining your child’s health, especially in the digital age. Complete Eye Care of Medina takes a vested interest in lifelong eye health, starting with our youngest patients. We’ll help you track and treat any signs of digital eye strain, answer questions and concerns, and work with you to develop healthy vision habits for your kids. Complete Eye Care of Medina’s comprehensive pediatric eye exams also include baseline concussion testing and monitoring of overall eye health and development. We’re on your team, parents. Contact us today to schedule your child’s appointment.