It’s almost inevitable that your child’s screen time will have increased in the last 12 months. In a survey during the first lockdown, 82 per cent of parents said that their children were spending significantly more time looking at a screen. One of several downsides is that this can lead to eye strain.
Charlotte Cook, Optometrist and Clinical Development Coach at Bayfields Opticians and Audiologists, explains what eye strain is and how to avoid it.
‘Eyestrain occurs when your eyes get tired from intense use, such as staring at digital devices. Eye strain can be irritating, but it usually isn’t serious and will go away once you rest your eyes,’ she says.
‘But there is a risk of becoming short-sighted if you use screens a lot. This is because eyes adapt to what they’re being used for the most. If your children have any symptoms of eye strain – such as headaches or difficulties focusing – it’s a clear sign that they need to take more breaks from screens to avoid any long-lasting damage.’
Here are Charlotte’s tips to help to prevent this:
- Reduce glare and reflections where possible by making sure the screen is pointed away from light sources. You can also fit anti-glare covers to your screen. If your child wears glasses, they may benefit from a lens with a blue light filter, such as the Zeiss Blue Protect.
- Regular breaks are vital. The ‘20:20 rule’ suggests that for every 20 minutes a child watches something on a screen, they must take at least 20 seconds away from it.
- Encourage your child to do something where they are not focussing up close on a screen, such as playing outside, going for a walk, playing games or doing arts and crafts. If possible, try to encourage some reading and activities that can happen off screen – worksheets, for example, or working directly from exercise books.
- Finally, avoid small screens if you can. When we’re using devices like smartphones, we tend to hold them closer to our face and strain our eyes to read smaller text.