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How to take care of children’s eyes when they sit in front of the laptop or computer for long

Screen time is increasing for all ages especially after it made a leap forward during the Covid – 19 pandemic lockdown. Kids nowadays spend more time than ever keeping their eyes glued to digital screens—on smartphones, tablets, computers, TVs, and other devices. And all that screen time can take a toll on a child’s well-being, including his/her eyesight. 

With schools closed during the pandemic and due to Covid restrictions, kids had to spend more time indoors and in front of screens for recreational activities. Furthermore, online classes and virtual education meant that children were spending a major chunk of their day in front of screens. Studies reveal that children begin using digital media gadgets, for example, their parents’ smartphones or tablets, when they are just 6 months old. And teenagers have been found to spend about 7 hours a day using screened-based media, playing video games, watching TV, and using social media. However, this doesn’t include the extra time spent using screens for homework or at school. All these factors have catalyzed the rate of short-sightedness or myopia cases amongst children. 

Other eye problems caused due to prolonged screen time

Eye fatigue, also called asthenopia, is caused by overuse of the eye. Prolonged exposure to screens can further strain the eyes. Kids suffering from eye fatigue may complain of eye pain, headaches, or tiredness. 

Long stretches of screen use without normal blinking, can leave the eyes dry and irritated. This issue can become worse for kids who might have to look up at a screen that has been positioned for adult use. 

  • Loss of focus flexibility

When a child’s eyes stay focused close-up for an extended period, they may struggle to adjust to distance vision later and things may appear blurry while they look away from the screen. Usually, that’s a short-term issue, and the eyes adjust again to their normal flexibility.

Research shows that children who spend maximum time indoors, have a tendency to develop nearsightedness (myopia). Reports state that, in the last 3 decades, there has been a marked increase in the number of children diagnosed with myopia.

Around 5-8% of India’s school-going children are myopic and the numbers are only rising. East Asian nations – the Asia Pacific region of Singapore, China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan have more than 50% of their school-going children suffering from myopia. Increased academic (and parental) pressure, indoor hobbies, more use of gadgets and lack of outdoor activities have all been the cause of the development of myopia. However, parents need not despair. Nowadays, there are many eye drops available in the market – like low dose atropine, which helps in slowing down or halting the progression of myopia.

Getting children to think about the future of their eye health is usually a tough job because kids are generally unrealistic about the fact that their actions today will affect their health in the years to come. So with the inundation of technology in our lives, parents can help protect their kid’s eyes from the harmful effects of prolonged screen use by following some simple steps discussed below.

Simple steps to protect your kid’s eyes from screen time 

  • Parents must do their best to help maintain some balance between the digital and the real world for their children. Limit the time that the child spends using mobile, TV, or computer. It will not only help protect their eye health but also their mind. Parents should encourage children to do outdoor activities like yoga, stretching, dancing, skipping, swimming, playing in gardens, etc. 
  • Encourage the child to blink frequently especially when they take breaks. Doing this helps increase the production of tears in the eyes, and keep them in good health.
  • Kids frequently get so engrossed whenever they are in front of a screen. Remind them to take breaks of 10-15min after every hour of any activity on the computer. Doctors recommend following the 20/202/20 rule: look away from the screen after every 20 minutes, focus on any other object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds. A simple timer can help your kid remember this task.
  • Encourage the kid to drink plenty of water and fluids. This will help maintain not just their eye health but also their overall well-being.
  • Have the child’s eyes tested by an eye professional at least once a year. It will help identify any underlying eye problems.
  • Make them read and do computer work in proper lighting conditions. The screen brightness should not be lighter or darker than the surrounding light of the room. Set the screen brightness so that it exactly blends with the surrounding light.

By following all the above-mentioned tips, you can protect your child’s eye health and help prevent most vision-related problems. If you have any queries regarding your kid’s eyes and vision, always consult a pediatrician.

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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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