Whether it’s taking the iPad away from a 3-year-old or asking a 14-year-old to get off Instagram for dinner, parents today engage in an ever-raging battle over screen time with their kids. Some kids even complain about their eyes feeling sore or tired, yet they’re still glued to their screens. Here are 5 tips to help reduce the impact of excessive screen time discomfort.
Tip 1 – Pay Attention if They Complain About Having Tired, Sore Eyes
Because children’s eyes are still developing, eye strain caused by screen time often has kids complaining. Vision Source claims headaches, neck and back pain, eye dryness and fatigue, blurry vision, and difficulty shifting focus to objects at a distance are all symptoms of eye strain. Once you connect the dots to their symptoms and their screen time, you can help make decisions about how much screen time is too much screen time – and how you can help them find balance.
Tip 2 – Limit At-Home Screen Time
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has provided the following screen time recommendations:
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid using screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen time to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
- For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviors essential to health.
Studies imply that, on average, the more time children spend outside, the lower their risk of developing myopia, or nearsightedness. Screen time can be tough on developing eyes.
Tip 3 – Remind Children to Take Breaks
This can be tough to enforce, but making sure your kids take screen time breaks is important. Kids can be oblivious to how many hours they’re actually spending in front of the TV or on your phone, so breaks are crucial to their eye health. In fact, kids are more likely to have uncorrected problems with their vision because they often assume that everyone sees the way they do. This can further contribute to eye strain, especially after excessive exposure to digital screens.
Also, the 20/20/20 rule comes in handy not only for kids but for adults as well! The 20/20/20 rule goes like this: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away from the screen in front of you/your child for 20 seconds. This gives eyes a much-needed break.
Tip 4 – Take Children to an Eye Doctor
You may not think of taking your kids to an optometrist, especially if they’re not showing signs of having any eye issues, but think again. According to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, approximately 35 percent of American preschoolers have nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness, or astigmatism. Also, the risk of myopia and progression of myopia continues through the school years. The American Optometric Association recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required.
Tip 5 – Befriend Zeaxanthin
Zeaxanthin (zee-uh-zan-thin) is a potent nutrient that acts as a powerful barrier between your source of vision in the back of the eye and harmful oxidants that can damage your long-term vision. This nutrient can also protect vision from the effects screen time can have on your kids’ vision. We’re all born with certain levels of zeaxanthin, but the body cannot produce it on its own – which means we have to eat foods that contain this nutrient or take eye vitamins that do.