Have you given your kids a break lately? A break from screens? Video games, social media, movie streaming, and online learning are contributing to more children spending more time on computers, tablets, TVs, and smartphones. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, too much screen time can cause issues with your child’s eyes and general well-being. Research shows that children as young as 6 months old become interested in media devices. Some kids are spending nearly 7 hours a day on screen-based media, playing video games, watching TV, and using social media. That doesn’t even include any additional time spent on screens at school and for homework!
Now with COVID-19, many have shifted to online learning causing even more children to spend even more time looking at screens. In addition to online learning, many are now using screens to socialize with family and friends virtually. Establishing screen time limits and enforcing breaks is essential to ensure you child and their eyes stay healthy.
Why Are Screen Breaks Important?
The American Academy of Pediatrics says staring at screens for long periods of times without breaks can cause symptoms such as:
- Eye Fatigue– Eye muscles can get tired from continued use. Concentrating on a screen for long periods can also cause concentration difficulties and headaches. If children are using the devices where lighting is poor, that can cause fatigue from squinting.
- Blurry Vision– Looking at the same distance for an extended time can cause a child’s vision to blur when he or she looks away from the screen. Some studies suggest that this increased computer and device use may be the cause of rising rates of nearsightedness among children, although that has not been proven. More time playing outside can help in healthier vision development in children.
- Dry Eyes– Studies have shown that people blink significantly less when concentrating on a screen. By blinking less, this can leave the eyes dry and irritated.
What Can Parents Do To Help?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following tips:
- Monitor Screen Time– Too much screen time has been linked to issues ranging from obesity to sleep problems. Even though screen time has understandably increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, The AAP encourages parents to do their best to find a balance between the digital world and the real world. Two important aspects of this are making sure screens don’t interfere with:
- Sleep. Not getting enough sleep leads to tired, sore eyes. The AAP recommends children not sleep with devices in their bedrooms and avoiding exposure to screens for 1 hour before going to bed. Using devices at bedtime, especially for violent video games, can interfere with your child’s ability to sleep. Some studies have also suggested the blue light given off by screens may make it difficult to sleep for kids.
- Exercise. Stepping away from the screen can help avoid eye and vision problems from too much screen time. The AAP recommends children age 6 and older get 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Encouraging your children to play outside can also give them exposure to natural sunlight.
- Take Frequent Breaks– The American Optometric Association recommends kids follow the 20/20/20 rule: Look away from the screen every 20 MINUTES, focus on an object at least 20 FEET AWAY for at least 20 SECONDS. Also, it is recommended that children walk away from the screen for at least 10 minutes every hour.
- Screen Positioning– Looking up at a screen can dry your eyes out quicker, make sure the screen is slightly below eye level. Also, adjust the font size on smaller screens so your child can comfortably read to help reduce eye fatigue.
- Get Regular Vision Screenings– Your child may not tell you if he is having blurry vision or other eye problems. Regular vision screenings are important to help look for any potential problems. The American Academy of Ophthamology and The AAP recommend children have their eyes checked by a pediatrician at their well-child visits beginning at birth.
If you have any questions or want to schedule a well-child or other appointment for your children, contact The Pediatric Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho or Rigby, Idaho. Our medical staff at The Pediatric Center currently consists of seven Board Certified Pediatricians and three Certified Pediatric Physician Assistants. We have been serving eastern Idaho for over 55 years providing quality pediatric care and offer extended hours so we can better serve your family and their health care needs.
Some content provided by The American Academy of Pediatrics https://healthychildren.org/