Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Digital Eye Strain & Your Child #AOA #MC

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.

In the digital world we live in these days, it is very easy to overlook the effect that all the various screens we stare at have on our eyes. I know I felt it way back when I was working full time and I even feel it on days when I spend too much time device hopping. But do we stop to think about how this might be hurting our kids? Is digital eye strain something we should be concerned about.

Do you remember the original Nintendo Gameboy? That ridiculously bulky thing with the awful
graphics and miniscule screen? Well when I got mine, and don't ask me to remember when that was, (middle school maybe?), I was hooked on it. I mean I spent way too much time staring at the awful colorless screen. Probably a few weeks later I started complaining about increased headache So my smart mom, who has worn classes since she was a young child, took me to the eye doctor. And do you know what he said? Too much time on the Gameboy. All the time I was spending looking at the screen was causing eye strain which was then causing the massive headaches so I was told to cut down my screen time. (Note: I did not need glasses at that time, but did go on to get them in high school for minor near sightedness).

Now take a moment and think about all the screen time our kids get. I admit that when you combine the amount of time my kids watch TV or are playing in their Nintendo DS's, it is higher than it should be. Then once they are back in school in a few weeks, that time might drop, but they will also be adding computer screen time. No matter which way we slice it, today's kids spend a lot of time looking at one screen or another. And we parents need to make sure we are taking the steps to keep protect their eyes.

The Facts
According to the American Optometric Association, 83% of children between the ages of 10 and17 say they use an electronic device for at least three hours every day. Now 40% of parents agree that their children have that much screen time, though I think that is a pretty accurate number for my k ids as well. Most children also say they experience burning, itchy and/or tired eyes while or after using electronic devices for extended periods of time. All of these are symptoms of digital eye strain. Some other symptoms may include headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain. My nine year old will sometimes complain of a headache, thankfully not often, but I have to believe that he is experiencing digital eye strain. Do your kids complain of any of these symptoms after spending a long time on their digital devices?

What Can We do?
Well first and foremost, everyone needs to cut down on screen time. Obvioulsy we can't change what happens at school, but at home we should make an effort to get the kids outdoors, interacting with one another or even reading in place of all the digital time. Believe me, I KNOW this is difficult, especially when we spend just as much time on digital devices. Even if you can cut back a few minutes each day, its a great first step.

It is also very important for kids to take frequent breaks by using the 20-20-20 rule pictured above.
When using technology, make sure they take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away. Some other steps to take are:
  • Check the height/position of the device. 
    • Computer screens should be 4-5 inches below eye level and 20-28 inches away from the eyes. 
    • Handheld digital devices should be held a safe distance away and just below eye level.
  • Check for glare on the screen. 
    • If necessary, turn the desk or computer or reposition your body and device to prevent glare on the screen.
  • Reducing the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen. 
  • Adjust the font size. A  larger font size will make it easier on your eyes when reading. 
  • Keep blinking.
All of these are good for combating temporary digital eye strain, but it is always a good idea to have your child's eyes checked yearly even if they do not have any complaints. There is no way for us to tell if they are having trouble seeing unless they tell us. And most times, the child doesn't even realize it. For me when I was in high school, I went in for my routine eye exam sophomore year with no complaints and walked out with eye glasses. So make sure you schedule yearly exams. For the little ones, I know most pediatricians will do a quick eye test with some cards, but that might be enough. The American Optometric Association recommends every child have an eye exam by an optometrist soon after six months of age, before age three and every year thereafter.

For More Information
AOA website: www.AOA.org
AOA Twitter: @AOAConnect
AOA Facebook: facebook.com/American.Optometric.Association

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fun Summer Learning with Netflix #StreamTeam

I am a Netflix Stream Team member and have been given a Netflix membership to help facilitate my posts. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. 

With summer break in full swing, sometimes it is hard to get our minds into learning mode. What kids wants to sit down when their is running around and fun to be had? The great thing is there are so many learning opportunities right in our own backyards! Using nature to educate can be fun for both adults and children and is super easy to do. Take a nature hike around your property or nearby woods searching for flowers, insects and animals. You can even turn it into a scavenger hunt! Or you can try a summer long nature project like having the kids start their own veggie or flower garden.

On those summer days filled with rain and thunderstorms or when it is just too hot to be outside, take the lessons inside with the help of Netflix. For the older children, there are plenty of entertaining documentaries available. My nine year old LOVES these types of shows and was thrilled when he saw Walking with Dinosaurs on there.  He even got the twin seven year olds excited for it.

Enjoy these and more documentary titles with your big kids:

1. Lewis & Clark: The Journey Out West
2. Walking with Dinosaurs
3. Secret Yellowstone
4. The Blue Planet
5. When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions

Of course my four year old isn't really all that interested in documentaries just yet. Thankfully Netflix has plenty of pre-school/kindergarten age educational shows as well. Mine is partial to PBS shows like Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and Super Why! He also recently discovered Busytown Mysteries and thankfully, all the other boys love it too. I get a kick out of this because I so loved Richard Scarry books when I was a kid myself. You're little one might enjoy some of these titles while staying cool on a hot day:

1. The Great Mouse Detective
2. Busytown Mysteries
3. LeapFrog: Math Adventures to the Moon
4. Turtle: The Incredible Journey
5. The Magic School Bus

It is so easy to forget about education and learning during the hot summer break. But I think it is important that we keep our children's minds active and stimulated. While hands on activities are always awesome, especially outside in the fresh air, the TV can be a wonderful tool as well. And when it is 95 degrees outside with 85% humidity (bleh), Netflix is there to educate us all on space exploration, dinosaurs and so much more!

Snack Idea!
Stay cool with these Brain Booster Strawberry-Yogurt Swirl Popsicles.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Indulging in Both New & Old Favorites on Netflix #StreamTeam

I am a Netflix Stream Team member and have been given a Netflix membership to help facilitate my posts. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. 

Now that school is out for the summer, I find that now more than ever I need some time at the end of the day just to veg out in front of the TV with a good show. Keeping 4 young boys occupied all day is exhausting and I look forward to a little "me" time with Netflix each month. For me, this June has been all about discovering a new fantastic show and catching up with an old favorite.

At the beginning of the month, my neighbor had mentioned how excited she was for new episodes of Sherlock on Netflix. When she told me how much she enjoyed this show, I thought it was about time I tried it out. It only took a few minutes into the first episode for me to be completely hooked. I love good mysteries and Sherlock is seriously the best I have seen in a long time in that genre. Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek: Into Darkness) plays the most perfect, quirky Mr. Holmes and the things that he says keeps me laughing every episode. Of course there is his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson, played by Martin Freeman, who you may recognize as Bilbo Baggins from the two The Hobbit movies. As a huge Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit fan, I *may* have yelled out "Look, it's Bilbo!" at the TV when I recognized him. Dr. Watson and his blog are one of my favorite parts of the show. The best part of Sherlock? The episodes are long, around 80-90 minutes each. This means that I'm not blowing through them at my usual speed, but more importantly there is more show to enjoy!

Since my husband and I are enjoying Sherlock together, on the nights when I'm solo I immerse myself in new episodes of Orange is the New Black. In between seasons one and two, I totally forgot how much I loved this show! I actually had a few left of season one to catch up on, which I flew through in two nights and then dove right into season two. I think this show gets better and better as it progresses. I don't sit down and watch it every night, but when I do I usually find myself watching a minimal of four episodes. It makes for a very long night, but it is more than worth it to see Piper and the Litchfield gang again. This show cracks me up but also intrigues me as we wait to see the outcome of certain storyline.

If you find that you need to unwind with some good TV at the end of a long Summer day, Netflix has even more popular shows to choose from. In addition to Sherlock and Orange is the New Black, I highly recommend Parenthood. It is one of my favorite current shows and I never miss it when its new on NBC. I would go as far to say that I feel it is a must watch for all moms.

1. Orange Is the New Black
2. Scandal
3. Pretty Little Liars
4. Sherlock
5. Breaking Bad
6. Parenthood

1. Weeds
2. Call the Midwife
3. Freaks and Geeks
4. Shameless
5. Top of the Lake

What shows do you plan on indulging in on Netflix this summer?

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