Keeping an eye on your kids’ vision during remote learning

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Increased screen time from remote learning during the pandemic have parents and children worried about their eye health.

“From a screen specifically, it’s not particularly worse” Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Lauren Fletcher-Morehouse said. 

Although screens tend to draw you in for a longer period, they aren’t particularly the cause of vision problems like headaches, dry eyes and myopia (also known as nearsightedness). Fletcher-Morehouse says she’s seen an increase of children coming in facing eye fatigue or strain, which has left parents worried and wanting to find the cause.

“Often they’ll come in saying that they’re just complaining of blurriness or headache, typically headaches that come on more at the end of the day when they’ve been looking at a screen for a while,” Fletcher-Morehouse said.

She says the eye itself is not being damaged by screens in general, but when you’re staring at a movie or facetime you don’t blink as often and you’re staring at something close to you for an extended period. She says it’s best to practice something that has become known as the 20-20-20 rule.

“Every 20 minutes you take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away like out a window or something, so that’s one of the ways to alleviate it. Setting a timer; kids can be helpful with that or if they’re reading whether it’s on a tablet or regular book whether it’s having a timer or bookmark in there, let them know to look away or take a quick break every 20 minutes or so,” Fletcher-Morehouse explained.

Other solutions include artificial tears, which lubricate the eye. Also, encouraging your kids to get outside for a bit and stopping screen time about an hour before putting them to bed. 

As for long term damage, it’s not something Fletcher-Morehouse appears to be worried about for now.

“Even though it’s a nuisance and can certainly lead to inattention or not wanting to continue classroom work, the long-term effects on the eye we haven’t seen any scientific data to suggest that there’s any long-term damage,” she said. 

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