Digital eye strain affects a significant percentage of the population. According to the Vision Council, 65 percent of Americans report symptoms of the condition, including dry eyes, blurry vision and headaches.
Is your child suffering from digital eye strain? If so, what can you do about it?
What Is Digital Eye Strain?
If your eyes become fatigued after looking at a screen closely for a long time, that’s digital eye strain. This might come from computer screens, tablets, cell phones or any other handheld electronic devices.
Symptoms include irritated, itchy or dry eyes, double vision, an increased sensitivity to light, trouble concentrating and soreness throughout the neck, shoulders and back.
Today, children stare at screens for longer than ever. Children today spend an average of 6.5 hours a day in front of a screen, compared to three hours a day in 1995. This means your child’s risk for developing the condition is higher than ever, and directly related to how much time they spend plugged in.
How Will it Affect Your Child Long-Term?
According to a National Eye Institute study published in 2009 in Archives of Ophthalmology, American nearsightedness is growing. The study showed that over a 30-year span, nearsightedness increased from 25 percent of the population to 41.6 percent.
While no direct correlation has been firmly established connecting screen time to nearsightedness, eye doctors believe screen time plays a role in the development of a child’s vision.
Limiting Screen Time and Protecting Vision
It can be difficult for parents to gauge and limit the effects of digital eye strain on their children, as well as notice when their child is showing symptoms.
First, it can be hard to measure how much time they spend on screens every day, given that screens are used more frequently in schools and at home for educational purposes as well as for entertainment. Second, children adapt to changes easily and may not notice when their vision begins to wane, so they may not complain of any symptoms.
Schedule an Appointment with a Doctor
The first step for parents is to take your child to an eye doctor. A comprehensive eye exam will help establish a baseline and ensure they don’t need glasses.
Next, keep a watchful eye over their screen use. Make sure they get up and take a break every 20 minutes — don’t let them stare at the screen uninterrupted for hours at a time. Also, make sure the screen they are looking at doesn’t have a glare. Redirect light sources so viewers don’t have to strain quite as hard to see the details on the screen.
In general, try to prioritize outdoor or indoor creative, unstructured playtime versus digital entertainment. Doctors recommend that children under 18 months have no screen time, and that children ages 2 to 5 have only two hours of screen time per day. Parents should use their best discretion for children age 6 and older.
Make an appointment at Salt Lake Eye Associates to get a comprehensive eye exam for your child. We will help you determine if digital eye strain is a concern, and we’ll tell you what you can do to prevent it and minimize its negative effects.