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Hawaiian Eye Center Tips on Screen Time Impact

August 15, 2019, 11:16 AM HST
* Updated August 15, 11:52 AM
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Image courtesy of the Hawaiian Eye Center.

More than 12 million children in the US are treated by eye care specialists annually for a number of eye-related conditions ranging from routine vision correction to emergency care from an accident.

In efforts to reduce the number of children who suffer needlessly with unaddressed vision impairment or need care for an injury, the American Academy of Ophthalmology has named August Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month.

As children spend more time tethered to screens, there is increasing concern about potential harm to their visual development, according to a press release from the Hawaiian Eye Center. Ophthalmologists are seeing a marked increase in children with dry eye and eye strain from too much screen time.

“Kids are at risk for digital eyestrain as much as adults,” said Dr. Steven Rhee, medical director at the Hawaiian Eye Center. “Dry eye, eye strain, headaches and blurry vision are all indicators of digital eyestrain.”

While symptoms are typically temporary, they may be frequent and persistent. But this doesn’t mean a prescription for computer glasses or reading glasses is necessary, the release continued. It also doesn’t mean that blue light coming from computer screens is damaging children’s eyes. It means they need to take more frequent breaks. This is because we don’t blink as often while using computers and other digital devices. Extended reading, writing or other intensive near work can also cause eye strain. Ophthalmologists recommend taking a 20 second break from near work every 20 minutes, the release stated.

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10 tips to help protect your child’s eyes from computer eyestrain:

  • Set a kitchen timer or a smart device timer to remind them.
  • Alternate reading an e-book with a real book and encourage kids to look up and out the window every two chapters.
  • After completing a level in a video game, look out the window for 20 seconds.
  • Pre-mark books with a paperclip every few chapters to remind your child to look up. On an e-book, use the “bookmark” function for the same effect.
  • Avoid using a computer outside or in brightly lit areas, as the glare on the screen can create strain.
  • Adjust the brightness and contrast of your computer screen so that it feels comfortable to you.
  • Use good posture when using a computer and when reading.
  • Encourage your child to hold digital media farther away—18 to 24 inches is ideal.
  • Create a distraction that causes your child to look up every now and then.
  • Remind them to blink when watching a screen.
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“There are a number of preventative measures parents and their children can take to avoid eye strain, all of which can be discussed with your family eye doctor,” Dr. Rhee said. “Together with your eye doctor, many children’s eye health issues can be caught early and corrected before they cause a youngster unnecessary discomfort or problems.”

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