With rising technology use, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are concerned about their children spending too much time in front of screens. With classes through video conferencing and the number of digital devices readily available to children and teenagers, the probability of limiting time screen time to under two hours is virtually zero, which leads to digital eye strain To monitor your child’s health, you can look for symptoms that can indicate too much time has been spent in front of a screen. Keep an eye out for:
Headaches and pain
After long hours in front of screens, vision headaches can occur. This type of headache is typically located at the front of the head, while headaches related to poor ergonomics typically appear at the back of the head. Headaches that appear after long hours sitting behind a screen are common and come at no surprise.
Sore, tired, burning, itchy eyes
Can lead to difficulty concentrating, sore neck/shoulders/back, and an inability to keep the eyes open and are all common symptoms of digital eye strains due to long hours spent in front of screens.
Blurred or double vision
If your child complains about blurry vision, you should ask if it is constant. If blurry vision is a constant problem for your child, they might have a refractive error such as myopia, astigmatism, hypertropia, or other eye conditions such as dry eye. If your child experiences blurry vision only after having spent long hours in front of screens and it goes away after a night of sleep, they are probably experiencing digital eye strains. In any case, you should consult your optometrist to be sure about your child’s eye health. Blurry vision from refractive errors can lead to difficulty focusing and can impact your child’s ability to learn.
Lack of sleep
Another common symptom of too much exposure to blue light from digital screens is lack of sleep. Blue light disrupts healthy sleeping patterns by obstructing melatonin production, which is vital for a good night’s sleep. If your child is using a computer game or social media to relax before bedtime, the light emitted from the device can disrupt the natural release of melatonin.
What can parents do to prevent these symptoms from happening to their children’s eyes?
The most important thing that you can do is to schedule an eye exam. Having your child’s eyes checked by a professional will ensure you have the most accurate information on their eye sight. During an eye exam, your eye doctor will check your child’s visual acuity and detect symptoms that can be linked to refractive errors and eye conditions. Depending on your child’s eye exam results, your eye doctor could prescribe corrective eyewear, contact lenses, and/or a variety of child-friendly treatments (such as myopic control).
If your child needs prescription glasses, you can add blue light blockers. Blue light blockers are lenses that filter the harmful blue light emitted by computer screens. They can help relieve eye discomfort and help get a good night’s sleep. Blue light has also been linked to Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Blue light lenses could prevent AMD in the long run.
When your child is working on a computer or focusing on close objects for long hours, they should keep the 20/20/20 rule in mind. Every twenty minutes have them look at something twenty feet away for twenty seconds. This helps defocus near vision. Focusing on near objects for a long period of time can contribute to the development of myopia and eye strains.
To set up a successful and healthy workstation at home, screen brightness level should be a top priority. The brightness of the computer screen should match the brightness of the room. This will help with fatigue and digital eye strain.
You should ensure your kids are not in front of screens before bedtime. A good rule thumb is to stop using digital devices at least 90min before bed.