As the new school year progresses, more children than ever are spending time learning from home. That means online learning and more time in front of screens. Essilor Vision Foundation (EVF) encourages parents to protect their kids’ eyes from vision problems that can arise from increased time online.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, parents expressed concern about the amount of time their kids spent looking at screens. A Pew Research Center study conducted in early March found that 71% of parents of a child under age 12 are somewhat concerned their child might spend too much time in front of screens.
It’s estimated that one in four kids has a vision impairment that affects their ability to learn. More screen time can exacerbate existing problems and negatively affect kids’ vision overall. Dr. Millicent Knight, Senior Vice President, Customer Development Group at Essilor of America, cites one example. “With reading in general, we used to read at 16 inches away from the eyes. Now what we’re finding, particularly with phones, is that kids are reading at 10 to 12 inches away.”
The eyes’ natural position is relaxed and looking straight ahead. However, at this closer range, the eyes turn in to focus on the screen, Dr. Knight explains. After a while, this turning in can lead to fatigue of the eye muscles, which can cause headaches or other vision problems.
Tips to prevent screen-related vision issues
Dr. Knight offers these tips to help kids avoid the potential vision issues that can be the result of more time online:
- Have children place an elbow on the table and then rest their head in that hand. From this position, they should lift their elbow and touch the screen. Kids should not have their device any closer than this distance.
- Follow the 20/20/20 Rule. Every 20 minutes, look up at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This gives eyes a break and a return to their natural position.
- Set up workstations perpendicular to any windows to avoid glare, which also can irritate eyes.
Even if parents follow this advice, their children still may have a vision impairment. Sitting too close to the TV, rubbing eyes frequently, and squinting to see better are all signs that a child could be suffering from a vision problem and needs a comprehensive eye exam.
Now more than ever, EVF urges parents to make vision care a priority by scheduling an appointment with an eye doctor to make sure their kids’ eyes are working well together and that they can see clearly.
About Essilor Vision Foundation
We strive to give children a brighter future by helping them see the world more clearly. Since 2007, Essilor Vision Foundation has provided more than 1.5 million pairs of eyeglasses to individuals in need. Essilor Vision Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public, non-profit organization committed to eliminating poor vision and its lifelong consequences. To learn more visit www.evfusa.org.