An insight from Drs. Neukirch & DalPorto
Due to the advent of digital devices, our children spend hours more per day on screens than most of us did at a similar age. Now, thanks to COVID, e-learning, and millions of parents being forced to work from home, the amount of screen time will inevitably increase for both children and adults alike.
We are especially interested in this topic as Optometrists whose focus is in myopia management (which means utilizing FDA approved methods to help lessen the progression of near-sightedness, a condition that goes hand in hand with screen time). As a result, we’d like to share some tips that aim to lessen eye strain/fatigue, and hopefully, also reduce overall device usage.
When it comes to non-essential (i.e. non-”e-learning” screen time), we agree with the official statements from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
- For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviors essential to health.
Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
The screen should be arm’s length or beyond as a good general rule.
The height of the screen should be at or slightly below eye level (not above).
Illumination of the screen should match that of the room. Meaning, they should not be sitting in a dark room with a bright screen or vice versa.
Take breaks. Our eyes and their muscles fatigue with extended periods of near viewing.
If your child wears glasses, they should have what is called an “anti-glare” or “anti-reflective” coating on the lenses. This cuts down on glare from the screen and provides considerable relief from eye strain. Newer generation anti-glare coatings also offer some blue light protection.
If the device your child is using has an option to lower the blue light, we would recommend doing this. We know that blue light is the most intense light coming off of screens, and too much blue light disrupts our sleep cycle when viewed during the evening hours.
Over-the-counter non-Rx blue light blocking glasses can help as well. These can be worn over contacts, but unfortunately are not a good option if your child wears prescription glasses already. It is important to note that there is no definitive evidence that blue light damages the eyes, but we do know reducing it lessens eye strain and fatigue.
Last but not least, please make sure your child has their annual eye exam. If children are farsighted, have astigmatism, or have other conditions that affect the muscles of the eye, and they are not corrected for this, it adds additional strain.
For those of you who are nearsighted and worry about your kids becoming nearsighted from all the screen time, this is legitimate concern. Make sure your child gets adequate outdoor time once schoolwork is completed each day. Studies show that 10 or more hours of outdoor time per week is protective against a child becoming nearsighted.
Children that are already nearsighted/myopic (i.e. anyone who needs glasses or contacts for their distance vision) may certainly benefit from our myopia management program, which involves wearing prescription contact lenses that are clinically proven and FDA approved to slow the progression of myopia by more than 50%.
All the best,
Drs. Andrew Neukirch & Christina DalPorto