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

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