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. #MC #AOA
Digital eye strain is a concern for ALL of the members of our house. Mykl and I both work on computers all day, so it's imperative for us to be aware and take preventative measures to protect our eyes. Even though our kids don't work full-time in front of a screen, we're taking measures to reduce digital eye strain for them, too. It's not exactly a secret my kids are big into technology. I've written about them using different devices plenty of times in the past, like when Levi bonded with his dad by teaching him how to play games on my tablet. Or when Lucy and Mykl stole my Galaxy Note 3 to watch YouTube videos. Heck, I even shared Levi's first Skype conversation with Tillie & Lucy before they moved in with us last fall. I remember as a little kid, my mom was worried about me sitting too close to the TV. Now, parents have even more stuff to worry about that could cause kids to experience digital eye strain. From computers at school to cell phones and tablets at home or even DVD players in the car, our kids are getting more screen time than ever. In fact, a new survey from the American Optometric Association (AOA) shows that parents drastically underestimate the time their children spend on digital devices. The survey also reports that 83 percent of children between the ages of 10 and17 estimate they use an electronic device for three or more hours each day. At first, I didn't believe it. 3 hours a day seems like WAY more than what we allow for our kids. But then I broke it down for our older kids:
- 30-45 min watching a show during breakfast
- 30 min app play time with their Kindles in the afternoon
- 1 hour TV time after dinner to wind down for bed
- 15 min Skype call with their mom to say goodnight
- 30 min individual reading time on their Kindles before Mykl reads them a bedtime story
That's almost exactly 3 hours a day. Since it's summer, I know some days that's probably less and some days it can be more (take family movie night, for example). That's a lot of screen time, and a lot of potential for digital eye strain to creep in.
What Is Digital Eye Strain?
Digital eye strain is a temporary vision condition caused by prolonged use of technology. Symptoms may include headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision, or head and neck pain. The kinds of light everyday electronic devices give off – high-energy, short-wavelength blue light – are a growing concern for optometrists, who are still evaluating how rays might affect and even age the eyes.
Tips For Reducing Digital Eye Strain
- Practice the 20-20-20 rule. When using technology or doing near work, take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away.
- Check the height and position of the device. Computer screens should be four to five inches below eye level and 20 to 28 inches away from the eyes. Digital devices should be held a safe distance away from eyes and slightly below eye level.
- Check for glare on the screen. Windows or other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of a computer monitor. If this happens, turn the desk or computer to prevent glare on the screen. Also consider adjusting the brightness of the screen on your digital device or changing its background color.
- Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen. A lower-wattage light can be substituted for a bright overhead light or a dimmer switch may be installed to give flexible control of room lighting.
- Adjust font size. Increase the size of text on the screen of the device to make it easier on your eyes when reading.
- Keep blinking. Frequent blinking reduces the chances for developing dry eye by keeping the front surface of the eye moist.
Comprehensive eye exams by an optometrist are essential in identifying the signs and symptoms associated with digital eye strain and other vision problems. The AOA recommends every child have an eye exam by an optometrist soon after six months of age, before age three and every year thereafter. Children now have the benefit of yearly comprehensive eye exams thanks to the Pediatric Essential Health Benefit in the Affordable Act, through age 18. I admit I'm guilty of ignorance of that last part. Levi will be 4 later this month and hasn't had an eye exam by an optometrist yet. Back in at the end of December, his pediatrician did a quick eye exam as part of his regular checkup, so I assumed that was all he needed at this age. You'd think I'd know better based on my own experience. I didn't figure out I needed glasses until I was 15. I had been experiencing headaches for a while, but chalked that up to regular teenage stuff (not enough sleep, too much time studying, etc…) It wasn't until my dad saw me struggling to read a street sign while I was practicing driving with my learner's permit that he put everything together and brought me in for an eye exam. Lately Lucy has been complaining that her head hurts fairly often. In addition to using these tips to reduce digital eye strain, just in case that's the culprit, we'll be scheduling an eye exam as part of our back-to-school planning so we can have a professional make sure that's not part of the issue. Check out this infographic with great info about digital eye strain. I'd love to hear your thoughts!