Millions of schoolchildren are studying at home in coronavirus-dictated on-line classes. While squinting at the blackboard is less common for now, remote learning presents students with other vision challenges. The most common problem is digital eye strain — also called computer vision syndrome. Spending many hours indoors has also been linked to the rapid progression of myopia, the elongation of the eye that causes nearsightedness.
These problems are especially worrying because children are spending an estimated 50% more time on-line compared to the days before the coronavirus.
Digital eye strain results from the prolonged use of digital screens. The eye strain then causes headaches, blurriness, dry eyes, difficulties with concentration, and neck and shoulder pain. The effects of digital eye strain are also worsened by any existing eye conditions — such as astigmatism, uncorrected anisometropia, and uncorrected eye movement problems.
It’s important that your children undergo a thorough eye exam, and to correct or treat eye conditions that can interfere with their learning, both in the classroom and online.
How Parents Can Help
Conditions that contribute to a child experiencing digital eye strain also include insufficient contrast between characters appearing on the screen and the screen’s background, the amount of glare emitted by the computer or tablet screen, being too close to or too far from the screen, and poor posture.
By monitoring your children’s learning environment and recognizing the signs of digital eye strain, you can prevent or at least minimize the effects of eye strain on your child. The American Optometric Association recommends:
- Adjusting the device so that the center of the screen is approximately 5 inches below the eyes and 20–28 inches away
- Tilting the screen to eliminate glare
- Employing proper posture, with feet planted firmly on the floor, back straight, and wrists off the keyboard
- Blinking frequently to keep the eyes moist
- Taking frequent breaks away from the device (at least every 20 minutes)
- Shutting devices at least one hour before going to sleep
Research has shown that children who spend significant time playing in the sunshine experience slower myopia progression than children who stay indoors. So make sure your children get plenty of sunshine, weather permitting.
If your children haven’t yet undergone their annual comprehensive start-of-school eye exam, schedule an appointment with Dr. Ben Giddens, Dr. Andrea Kozma and Dr. Stephanie Britton. We’ll advise you and your children on how to keep their vision clear and comfortable and their eyes healthy during this extended period of at-home learning. Giddens Optometry helps parents and children from Georgetown, Limehouse, Acton, Halton Hills, and throughout Ontario.