Since the pandemic, screen time has been on the rise across the country. Regardless of age, we’ve all had to turn to digital devices for news, education, communication, and connection. However, children have been the center of many conversations regarding screen time, mostly with concerns around their general health and wellbeing. With that, we’re discussing screen time’s impact on children’s eye health.
One of the most common concerns when it comes to kids and screen time is nearsightedness, also known as myopia. When we read on phones, tablets, e-readers, or even laptops, we tend to hold those devices much closer to our faces than their physical book or magazine counterparts. This forces our eyes to adjust to much closer distances than they’ve been used to. Children have the same issue, and their eyes become so used to seeing up close that they have difficulties adjusting to distance. Therefore, nearsightedness occurs.
This sentiment is confirmed with a study shared by the New York Post in June of this year. Doctors began seeing children with far worse vision than they had pre-pandemic. In fact, the researchers found that children were 3 times more likely to have myopia during the pandemic than they were in the previous 5 years. Along with screen time, experts believe that the limited outdoor time has also attributed to this increase.
“Increasing screen time is usually accompanied with a lack of outdoor time and more sedentary lifestyle. The more time children are inside reading, studying and using their electronic device(s), the less natural light the eye is receiving to develop properly.”– American Optometric Association president William T. Reynolds
Computer Vision Syndrome
While often associated more with adults, children can experience symptoms of digital eye strain (DES), too. Also known as computer vision syndrome (CVS), this is the name healthcare professionals use to describe the common symptoms associated with long-term screen use. These symptoms include:
- Eye strain
- Tired eyes
- Poor/disrupted sleep
- Neck/back pain
- Trouble focusing
These symptoms can be experienced after as little as 2 hours spent on devices, and children don’t often know that these symptoms are just that – SYMPTOMS of an addressable issue. It’s up to parents to be vigilant and ask children to regularly evaluate how they’re feeling.
Where’s the Relief?
The sad reality: screen time isn’t going anywhere. It’s become an integral part of our lives, and yes, even our children’s lives. So, where can you go to help relieve your child’s CVS symptoms? Here are some suggestions to help:
- Take breaks. Experts suggest the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Now, it’s difficult enough to get adults to do this, let alone children. We recommend setting up their learning space with “targets” that are about 20 feet away (or at least 6-8 feet) to help their eyes readjust.
- Build in screen-free time. Go for a walk, play a board game, color, anything to get their eyes away from screens!
- Set up their space. Like the targets, make sure their whole space is set up to reduce glare and increase comfort. Read more on setting up a space for reduced screen time symptoms.
- Increase their colorful food intake. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables have key eye-healthy nutrients that help build the eye’s natural protection against screen time eye symptoms. However, we know it can be difficult enough to get them to eat what you want. That’s why we created EyePromise® Screen Shield™ Teen.
Screen Shield Teen is a one-a-day, fruit punch-flavored, chewable tablet that delivers those important eye-healthy ingredients. Developed by eye doctors specifically for kids ages 4-17, this simplified formula has exactly what they need and nothing more. It can easily be added to a daily multi-vitamin, and it helps address those common screen time symptoms.
Screens are here to stay, but so are your child’s eyes. Make sure you’re giving them everything they need to stay healthy. Follow these tips to get started and download these other helpful screen time suggestions for further help.