An Ontario study concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic saw an alarming increase in screen time among Canadian children. With the closure of schools and activities, many kids spend more time staring at a screen than playing outside.
Screens and digital devices, like iPads, iPhones, and computers, can negatively impact your kid’s eyes when overused.
Are iPads Bad for Your Eyes?
Experts have concluded that overuse of iPads, mobile phones, and computer screens can lead to computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eye strain. Kids that spend prolonged periods looking at a computer screen are at higher risk of developing some of the vision issues related to the syndrome.
What Is Digital Eye Strain?
Digital eye strain, or computer vision syndrome, describes a collection of vision-related issues that tend to develop due to screen overuse. Technology continues to advance and become an important part of living—often playing a role in our work, school, and recreational activities. Kids spending too much time staring at a screen may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Blurry vision
- Dry eyes
- Red eyes
- Watery eyes
- Double vision
What Causes Digital Eye Strain?
Our devices and screens are typically used in close contact with our eyes, leading to our eyes contracting to see clearly, and ultimately forcing them to work harder. Over time, our eyes can become tired and strained, resulting in digital eye strain.
Tips for Protecting Your Kid’s Eyes
Your child’s eyes enable one of their most important senses, making it essential to care for them. Here are some tips on how you can try to reduce the effect screens can have on their eyes:
Blinking is important for cleaning our eyes and keeping them adequately lubricated. We typically blink less when looking at a screen, which can cause our eyes to dry out. For this reason, it is important to remind your child to blink frequently when using a screen.
Artificial tears can be a great way of increasing the moisture in your eyes and providing relief from potentially dry eyes. Most artificial tears can be purchased over the counter, but we recommend consulting with your optometrist about the types best for you or your child.
The 20-20-20 rule is used to help people reduce the possibility of digital eye strain. It involves following a schedule of 20 minutes looking at the screen, followed by 20 seconds of looking at something approximately 20 feet away.
Reduce Screen Brightness & Glare
Adjust your child’s screen to reduce any glare that may be coming from external sources, and keep the screen clean of fingerprints or smudges to enhance clarity.
Keep Screens Out of the Bedroom
Screens emit a blue light that can keep us awake and cause difficulty falling asleep. Your child’s sleep is important to their development, so we recommend keeping screens outside of the bedroom and avoiding use before bed.
Use a Humidifier
Setting up a humidifier where screens are used the most frequently can help reduce the evaporation of tears and keep your eyes moist for longer by returning some humidity to the room.
Recommended Screen Time for Children
Here are some recommended screen time limits for your children based on their age to help reduce the likelihood of developing digital eye strain:
Children Under 2: Screen time is not recommended, except for the occasional video call with family or friends.
Children Ages 2-5: Screen time should be limited to 1 hour or less per day and focused on engaging activities that help them to learn using the screen.
Children Older Than 5: Start teaching your children the 20-20-20 rule as it becomes harder to limit screen time due to school and educational needs.
How to Treat Digital Eye Strain
In many cases, the impact of digital eye strain can be resolved by changing habits and practicing healthy screen use. If symptoms persist and your child is experiencing eye issues, book an appointment with your optometrist.
There are a few potential treatment options your optometrist can recommend.
Eyeglasses & Contact Lenses
Certain eyeglasses and contacts can be provided to help provide comfort and alleviate symptoms experienced during screen use. If your child has a pre-existing vision condition, various tints or coating may be added to their lenses.
Some vision issues may be related to eye coordination or focusing, which cannot be fixed with eyeglasses or contacts. Vision therapy or training may be recommended to help train the eyes to work together more effectively.
Book an Appointment Today
Taking care of your child’s eyes includes booking regular eye examinations to check for developing conditions or issues. At Dr. Zargar Eyecare, our team of experienced doctors will happily consult with you about any potentially necessary steps for maintaining healthy and clear vision and practicing healthy digital habits!