Doctors warn of increased eye strain as a result of online learning

Caring For Our Kids

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — We all seem to be spending more time on our electronic devices, from those working from home, virtual meetings, to helping kids with virtual school.

But, what affect is this having on our children’s eyesight? Dr. Shannon Cohen from East Tennessee Children’s Hospital shares some of the issues and tips to make virtual learning easier on kids’ eyes.

What are the effects of too much screen time on kids’ eyes?

The good news is that there is no evidence that looking at a computer, smartphone or other digital screen for long periods of time will permanently damage a child’s eyes. But, focusing on a task for long periods of time without much blinking can cause eye strain, leading to temporary discomfort for all ages.

Signs/symptoms of eye strain

  • Blurry vision
  • Achy or tired feeling
  • Dry eyes that will tear up or sting
  • Headaches

Tips for making a virtual learning easier on kids’ eyes

  • Monitor and limit screen time outside of school work. Aside from eye strain, too much screen time can affect the quality of your child’s sleep.
  • Take frequent breaks when possible. Kids tend to get absorbed in what they are doing and don’t often notice signs of eye strain. Remind them to stand up, stretch, and even just close their eyes for a moment. Blinking is important.
  • Position your child’s screen slightly below eye level. Looking up at a screen opens eyes wider and dries them out quickly. Also, positioning a desk top or laptop one to two feet away can help. Adjusting the font size on the screen can also help.
  • Pay attention to lighting in the area where your child is working. To cut down on glare and eye fatigue, the level of lighting where the computer is being used should be about half of what you would use for other activities like writing. Try to position computers where light from uncovered windows, lamps and overhead lights are not shining directly on screens. Decreasing the brightness of the screen is also helpful.
  • Get regular vision screenings. If your child is having blurry vision or other eye problems, they may not speak up. Regular vision screenings can discover any other eye issues, outside of eye strain, allowing your child’s doctor to offer solutions.
  • What about blue-light filtering glasses? There is no evidence that blue-light is harmful to the eyes, but it can make it harder for children to fall asleep and can contribute to eye strain. So, if you think they will help your child, use them, but turning off all screens at least one hour before bed can help prevent this too without buying special glasses.

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