In this challenging time, everyone has turned to digital communication- smartphones, laptops and tablets. Technology has been the one reason we have been able to continue to work, our children have been able to thrive and learn, and we stay entertained and connected with friends and family. Unfortunately, as a result, our eyes bear the brunt of this extended screen time.
Extended screen time had adverse effects on eyes, both in children and adults, which can be short term, medium-term or long term. In children, it is habit-forming, reduces attention span, reduces socializing behavior, impairs sleep patterns and delays language development.
Short term side effects include eye strain, discomfort, redness, dryness and foreign body sensation, and frequent blinking of eyes. Medium and long term side effects typically effect children’s eyes, as prolonged near activities can cause increase in growth of eyeball, leading to myopia (minus number), requiring spectacles. However, short term increase in extended screen time and its side effects are temporary and reversible, and do not cause any permanent damage to eyes.
There are some simple tips which are very simple to follow while using gadgets for prolonged periods of time.
- The larger the screen, the lesser the eye strain. So, working or attending online school lessons on a laptop or desktop is preferable to doing the same on a smart phone. It is ideal to reduce the brightness and increase the font size on a laptop or desktop.
- Ideally, the screen should be atleast 25-30 inches away from the eyes, and 15-20 degrees below eye level i.e; around 4-5 inches below the eyes. Also, the computer screen should be placed away from windows or overhead lighting to avoid glare. Using anti glare screens or spectacles with anti reflective coating will also help minimize glare.
- Continuous screen time is not advisable, as blink rate reduces with concentrated work on gadgets, leading to symptoms. It is important to consciously blink while looking at the screen. Its important to take frequent breaks. For children, ideally a 30-40 minute online class should have a 10-15 minute break before the next class starts.
- A golden rule of thumb which can be followed is the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a break from looking at the screen for 20 seconds and look at something which is 20 feet away.
A few tips which parents can follow to safeguard kid’s eyes include:
- No screen time for a child less than 2 years of age.
- No unsupervised internet time and gadget use young children.
- Make screen time productive. Ex: Watch an educational video or documentary with them or take virtual tours, either of an animal park or museum.
- Switch off all digital devices atleast 1 hour before bedtime to maintain a healthy sleep pattern.
- Involve the child in non screen activities like reading books, playing board games, or drawing and painting.
- Encourage outdoor physical activities, which can be done as a family. This helps improve bonding as well as exposure to sunlight boosting Vitamin D levels.
- And the most important fact is that there is a strong association between a parent’s screen time and their kid’s screen time. So, be a good role model and put away your phone.