Digital Eyestrain In Children: Know The Complications And Ways To Fight This Condition
The increased use of digital devices has contributed to increased incidents of digital eye strain in kids. Read here to know from the expert how it can affect your child's vision and prevention tips.
Excess use of digital devices may lead to pain in eyes as well as headache
- During the pandemics incidents of digital eye strain have increased
- Take frequent breaks to prevent eyestrain
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule to give your eye the required break
Several kids are experiencing itching and redness in her eyes, accompanied by recurrent headaches. When the condition did not abate, it becomes important to see an ophthalmologist. This has been reported due to spending 8-9 hours on digital devices every day. Not surprisingly, it is not a rare case during this year among children as well as adults. Computer vision syndrome is increasingly becoming common among children today posing risk to their long term eye health. With greater access to technology and ubiquitous digital devices, digital eye strain has already been a significant problem among children of this generation.
Ever since the pandemic necessitated social distancing and remote education, children are spending more time than ever before glued to digital devices. At the same time, the need to stay at home has halted their outdoor play time routines, resulting in more screen time for recreation.
What causes digital eye strain?
Digital eye strain manifests itself with signs like dry eyes, itching or burning sensation in the eyes as well as redness. It may also be accompanied by occasional headaches. When exposure to digital devices continues for a long time, children may also experience blurred vision and difficulty in concentrating. It may also be accompanied by posture related problems such as pain in the back or neck.
When you work on digital devices, we tend to blink less and stare harder. This causes lack of sufficient lubrication. At the same time, exposure to blue light that emanates from digital devices and mobile phones also interferes with your circadian rhythm. You often tend to spend time on mobile phones at night and this interferes with your normal sleep patterns. Long hours on computers are also associated with poor posture that affects the spine health.
In an age of abundance of devices, we are also constantly switching from one screen to another. For children, 4-5 hours of online classes today are usually followed by a few hours of studying, playing video games on computers or watching something on the mobile phone. These further compounds the problem as our eyes fail to get any break from the digital strain.
Does it increases the risk of myopia or vision loss?
While there is no clear evidence to link digital eye strain with increased risk of myopia, it is understood that extended hours of near eye work augments risk of near sightedness. A study published in the Ophthalmology journal in 2018 concluded that excess of near vision activities including screens as well as books, augment the risk of myopia in children. And near vision activities have increased dramatically ever since smart phones and computers became household items. So, even as we look for definitive answers, we can assume that excessive exposure to digital devices may have contributed to the increasing incidence of myopia in children.
What should be done?
While you cannot avoid digital devices while living in a digital age, it is important to exercise caution. You have to ensure that your eyes get regular breaks from the digital screens and near vision work. What we recommend to children (as well as adults) to follow the 20-20-20 rule. Taking a 20-second break to shift your gaze away from the screen to look at an object 20 feet away every 20 minutes is the best way to prevent digital eye strain.
It is also advisable to limit screen times for children beyond their daily school work. If stepping out is not safe, encourage them to engage themselves in interesting play activities in the house such as solving puzzles, playing board games etc. We should also not forget that children should have a routine for sleeping as well, as it's the only time the eyes and brain get rest.
(Dr. Anup Rajadhyaksha, Ophthalmologist & Medical Consultant for ENTOD International)
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