I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Mom Central for the American Optometric Association. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.
Here’s a statistic that parents might be disturbed to hear: Eighty percent of children report burning, itchy, or tired eyes after using electronic devices for extended periods, according to an American Optometric Association (AOA) survey.
Why is that a concern? Because our kids are most likely using electronic devices for extended periods of time. In fact, according to the AOA, 83 percent of kids between the ages of 10 and 17 report that they use electronic devices for three or more hours daily. Parents, on the other hand, generally underestimate the amount of time their children spend on electronic devices. Only 40 percent of parents peg their kids’ daily usage of electronic devices at three or more hours each day.
Those burning, itchy, or tired eyes? The American Optometric Association reports that they’re symptoms of “digital eye strain,” a vision condition (luckily it’s only temporary) that is a result of extended technology use. Users can also experience headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision, or head/neck pain.
To help avoid/reduce digital eye strain, the AOA recommends that children using technology take frequent breaks and practicing the 20-20-20 rule. The 20-20-20 rule refers to taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes, and viewing something far away. In addition, it is important to:
- Check the height and position of the electronic device. Laptop and computer screens should be four to five inches below a user’s eye level and 20 to 28 inches away from their eyes. Electronic devices should also be below eye level and a safe distance away.
- Check for screen glare. Keep computers and electronic devices out of direct light (including windows). You might also want to adjust the screen’s brightness (and possibly changing the background color).
- Reduce the lighting in the room. Try using a lower-wattage light or a dimmer instead of bright lights.
- Adjust the font size on your computer and devices. Increasing the text size on your device is easier on the eyes.
- Blink! Remember to blink often to keep your eye surfaces moist to help prevent dry eyes.
Kids need comprehensive eye exams at regular intervals — after six months of age, before age three, and every year thereafter. They can help detect signs and symptoms of vision problems as well as digital eye strain. Did you know that the Pediatric Essential Health Benefit of the Affordable Act provides the benefit of yearly comprehensive eye exams through age 18.
Back to School is a time that parents focus on purchasing school clothes, new shoes, and school supplies. However, it’s a good time to schedule regular appointments such as check-ups. Unfortunately, eye exams for kids sometimes get overlooked. When our family prepares for back-to-school shopping, it’s a reminder to line up all those important yearly doctor visits. And now that my kids are using electronic devices regularly, it’s even more important to get them into the optometrist’s office so we can make sure their vision is up to par!
It’s important to get those eye exams because children don’t always exhibit signs and symptoms of vision problems or digital eye strain. In fact, I discovered that two of my kids needed glasses for close work (and computer work!) at a routine eye exam. Neither had complained of vision problems and I hadn’t noticed any symptoms that they were experiencing any problems with their vision. I was grateful that I took them for the annual eye exam because who knows how their vision problems would have affected their schoolwork — and their health? Not to mention how important it was to get them glasses even before they were introduced to electronic devices!
In today’s world, kids are connected all the time — at school, at home, pretty much everywhere they go. That’s why it’s really important in our family to keep tabs on everyone’s eye health. We make sure everyone takes regular breaks and we ensure that there are extended periods when we don’t use our devices. If left to monitor themselves, they’ll never take a break from electronics! But I know that it’s vital to their eye health (in addition to other aspects of their health) to take steps to reduce (or prevent!) digital eye strain.