Ask The Optometrist: How Can I Help My Child Avoid Digital Eye Strain?

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Ask The Optometrist: How Can I Help My Child Avoid Digital Eye Strain?

Digital eye strain is a term used for a selection of eye conditions that are related to the use and overuse of screens. Viewing screens for a long period can cause discomfort or even pain in the eyes, neck, and shoulders. Since the start of the pandemic when many children needed to do classes online, many parents have noticed an increase of the symptoms of digital eye strain in their children. With the popularity and dependence on technology expected to only increase, optometrists recommend learning about digital eye strain now so that you can teach your child healthy habits and prevent the development of symptoms.

Optometrist Recommendations for Digital Eye Strain

Limit Screen Time
In theory, this is one of the best things to do to limit digital eye strain, but in practice, it’s often easier said than done. Depending on the circumstance, some children may still need to be on a computer frequently for classes, video calls with loved ones, other educational resources, or more. Even if screens are a regular part of your child’s life, optometrists recommend trying to limit their screen use when you can. Screen time for fun, such as game-play or watching videos, should be limited, with a maximum of 1 hour daily screen time recommended for children 5 or under. It’s also important that your child doesn’t have screen time for at least 1 hour prior to bedtime, as this has been shown to create difficulties sleeping. Children are also encouraged to play outside for at least 1 hour every day, which is both good for your child’s health and to keep them entertained without screens for at least an hour.

Teach Them To Take Breaks
Whether your child is using screens for fun or out of necessity, they still need to give their eyes a break. Optometrists suggest the 20-20-20 rule for people of all ages: look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. This gives the eyes a moment of rest so they are not focusing on an object of the same distance for too long. If your child is too young to understand distance or to remember to do this every 20 minutes, you may have to set a timer for 20 minutes, pick a spot for them to look at, and then count to 20 with them. Even if your child is older, it is beneficial to set a timer for 20 minutes, as many people tend to lose track of time when they are deeply involved in whatever they are doing.

Control Screen Brightness
Screens should be at a brightness level that is not so dark that your child strains to see but also not excessively bright. To help keep screens at an appropriate brightness level, ensure that there is no glare or direct sunlight on the screen. It’s also helpful to light the room at about half the brightness that you would use for reading and writing. Screens should not be viewed in completely dark rooms, as this will make the screen much brighter in comparison.

Adjust Screen Angle
When screens are too high, the upper eyelid is open wider than usual and tears evaporate quickly, leading to dry eyes. Keeping screens at eye level or just below helps to keep the eyelids partially closed. Another important factor for the angle of screens is to teach children proper posture. If screens are slightly below eye level but the child is tilting their head down, this will cause the eyelids to once again open too wide and will also likely cause your child to have a sore neck and shoulders.

Take Them To The Optometrist
If your child is showing signs of dry eyes, fatigue, headaches, blurred vision, stinging eyes, irritated eyes, itchy eyes, or neck and shoulder problems, they could be caused by digital eye strain. However, there can be other causes for some of these symptoms. Taking your child to the optometrist when they are showing eye pain or discomfort can help you determine if their screen viewing habits need to change or if there is another underlying condition that needs to be addressed. Annual pediatric eye exams monitor your child’s eye health and your optometrist can let you know if your child has any symptoms of digital eye strain that you may not have noticed.

Check For Digital Eye Strain By Visiting A Calgary Optometrist

If your child is showing any signs of digital eye strain, you should schedule a pediatric eye exam with a Calgary optometrist. Your optometrist will be able to give you tips for at-home screen usage and will be able to confirm if your child’s symptoms are from digital eye strain or if they are caused by another condition. Even if your child is not presenting symptoms of digital eye strain, pediatric eye exams are encouraged once a year to ensure proper vision and eye health in children. To schedule an appointment with a pediatric optometrist in Calgary, contact Specs in the City at 1-403-252-2020 or fill out the online contact form.



Q: Are screens bad for my child’s eye health long-term?
A: While it might be excessive to prevent your child from using screens at all, it is helpful to limit screen time. The long-term effects of digital eye strain have not yet been studied, but when children view objects up close for long periods it can cause issues with their focusing. Even though the research can’t tell us much about the overall long-term effects of screens, personal devices such as smartphones and tablets that are held in the hands, particularly when they are young, are not great for the long-term vision of children.

Q: How can I protect my child’s vision?
A: Regularly visiting the optometrist, encouraging healthy eating, and ensuring your child wears UV-blocking sunglasses are all great ways to help your child’s eye health. Read Vision Health Month: The Best Ways To Protect Your Child’s Vision to learn more.

Q: Do blue light blocking eyeglasses fix digital eye strain?
A: Blue light blocking glasses and anti-glare lenses may reduce digital eye strain, but they are not enough on their own; you also need to follow the tips listed above. Learn more about blue light blocking glasses by reading Are Blue Light Blocking Glasses Worth It?

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