I participated in an Influencer Activation about digital eye strain and the importance of back-to-school eye exams on behalf of Mom Central for the American Optometric Association. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation
Eyes are so important, but they’re something many of us rarely think about and quite often take for granted. Especially when you think about how our lives have changed over the last 20 years. We now spend most of our day staring into one type of electronic device or another and we really don’t know what kind of damage this can cause long term.
But we do know that the use of digital devices is on the rise. You can’t seem to get away from them. But did you know that most parents underestimate the amount of time their kids spend on them? It’s true. In fact, in a survey by the American Optometric Association (AOA), 83% of children ages of 10 and 17 estimated that they used electronic devices for more than three hours each day. That contrasts sharply with a separate survey of parents in which 40% knew that their children were using them more than three hours a day. That means the vast majority of the parents were underestimating the amount of time their children were spending staring at screens.
But what’s the harm? Well besides the lack of physical exercise, it’s the physical discomforts caused by too much screen time. Actually, 80% of the kids who participated in the survey admitted they experienced burning, itchy, or tired eyes after using devices for long periods of time. What the kids don’t understand, but parent should, all of the symptoms they suffered from are symptoms of digital eye strain and it doesn’t just affect children.
Digital eye strain is a temporary vision condition which is caused by extended use of technology. Other symptoms can include fatigue, headaches, loss of focus, double vision, blurred vision, or head and neck pain. Unfortunately, I know all of these symptoms all too well. I’ve been dealing with digital eye strain since 1979 when I started my first job building databases. But there are some things you can do to help the condition.
Digital Eye Strain
- Take Frequent Visual Breaks: The easiest way to do this in incorporate the 20-20-20 rule when you’re working with a screen. Take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes, and view something 20 feet away. I can attest this works well. Use a timer on your smartphone or online alarm to remind you.
- Optimal Device Height and Position: Your computer screen should be 4-5” below eye level and a 20-28” away from your eyes. If your device is hand held, it should be a safe distance away from your eyes and slightly below eye level.
- Minimize Glare: You should not be able to see any light sources on your computer screen. If you do, turn the monitor or move the lighting. If you’re still getting a glare and all ambient light has been checked, consider adjusting the brightness of your screen or changing the theme/background color to one that produces less glare.
- Match the Room Lighting to the Computer Screen: I am guilty of having a bright screen and a dark room and I can tell you, it’s terrible for my eyes. What’s optimal is a lower light setting on the computer and a lower-watt desk with a dimmer switch to give you more flexibility to match the lighting. This is something I need to do pronto.
- Adjust the Font Size: I’ve done this on all of my devices. A simple bump in the font size or changing to a font that’s easier to read can make it much more comfortable to work and read.
- Blink: It sounds silly that you have to be reminded to blink, but when you’re “in the zone” and working or playing online, it’s easy to forget to. But it’s important because frequent blinking will help reduce your chance of getting dry eye by keeping the front surface of your eye moist naturally. I’m not a fan of most eye drops and prefer not to use them unless absolutely necessary. Simply remembering to blink can prevent most dry eye.
- Get Regular Eye Exams: Eye exams can find more than just eye problems. They can signal other problems going on throughout the body (or in my case, that a medication I was taking was causing high pressure in my eye which could have caused permanent damage). Plus a comprehensive eye exams by an optometrist can verify digital eyestrain and other vision problems and help you make decisions on how to handle them. The AOA recommends children be examined by an optometrist around six months of age, then again before age three, and every year thereafter. It’s important that kids have the best start in life and in school and knowing about eye issues as early as possible can make that a reality. Plus, children now have the benefit of yearly comprehensive eye exams thanks to the Pediatric Essential Health Benefit in the Affordable Act, through age 18.
Back-to-School Eye Exams
Schools are starting all over the US, now is a great time to make sure your child is prepared for doing his/her best in school. Eye exams take under an hour, are painless, and important for people of any age so show your kids you believe in the importance of eye health by getting your vision checked too!
I know back-to-school can be a busy time, but this is one appointment I’d move to the top of the list. At the very least, go over the tips to reduce eye strain with your child, post the 20-20-20 rule, and schedule an appointment for his first break. It’s that important!
“Parents should know that vision screenings miss too many children who should be referred to an optometrist for an eye examination to correct vision,” added Dr. Roberts. “Eye exams performed by an eye doctor are the only way to diagnose eye and vision diseases and disorders in children. Undiagnosed vision problems can impair learning and can cause vision loss and other issues that significantly impact a child’s quality of life.”
Need more info about children’s vision issues and the importance of back-to-school eye exams? Or need to find an optometrist in your area? Visit www.aoa.org for all that and more. You can also connect with the AOA on Facebook and Twitter. Print & post this AOA Digital Devices Infograph – it’s a great visual reminder to take a break.
Have you scheduled your BTS eye appointments yet?