Is Sitting Too Close to the TV Really Bad for Your Eyes? Part II

By October 30, 2020Uncategorized

Last week we talked about the increasing prevalence of myopia and how too much near focusing, especially too much screen time, can impact myopia.  This week we are going to talk about other eye problems associated with increased screen time, as well as some things that you can do to help protect yours and your child’s eye health.

What other problems can be associated with increased screen time?
Is Sitting Too Close to the TV Really Bad for Your Eyes?
  • Eye strain or fatigue – When you constantly focus on a particular distance, especially a near distance, that constant focusing will cause the muscles around your eyes to become tired.  Some children have a mild myopia that has never been diagnosed, which causes them to need to focus even harder.  This muscle fatigue can cause discomfort and muscle pain around the eyes.
  • Dry eyes – Due to the decrease in blink rate associated with computer use.  Kids may not tell you their eyes are dry, but you might notice them blinking excessively after they have been on the computer or rubbing their eyes a lot.  This is a good sign of dry eyes.
  • Headaches – which may be related to the combination of eye strain and dry eyes, or even from rubbing their eyes excessively.
What can be done to help protect eye health?
  • The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) call for no screen time at all for children younger than 2 years and no more than 1 hour a day for children 2-5 years old.
  • The AAP recommends that parents should negotiate limits and boundaries for screen time with older children.
  • The 20-20-20 rule – Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.  This should be easy to remember because you want to have 20/20 vision.
  • Establish a daily schedule for children, which minimizes recreational screen time when kids are engaged for 3 hours or more with digital learning.
  • Free time away from screens should include playing outside as much as possible, as well as non-digital indoor activities.
  • Make sure there are good lighting conditions in the home, especially near the computer or tablet, to cut down on eye strain.  The computer or tablet should never be used in a dark room.
  • The lighting of the computer screen is also important.  It should feel comfortable to look at, not too bright, and not too dim.
  • Make sure there are ways to use distance vision during breaks from virtual learning, such as looking out of a window.
  • Use in-device applications that allow parents to set limits restricting screen time.
  • If your child is watching TV, make sure they are sitting across the room from it so the focusing distance is farther away.  Have your child adjust the position of the screen used for educational purposes throughout the day, so that it is at different distances from them through the day.
  • Collaborate with your child’s teachers about limiting screen time.  Maybe there could be breaks where children are working on work sheets, doing arts-and-crafts activities, or doing physical exercise.  Even though doing work sheets is close work, there is more opportunity for the eyes to focus at different depths when the paper is moved or pages are turned, and the distance may be different from the screen.
Here are some ideas for alternatives to recreational screen time:
  • Outdoor play whenever possible, running, jumping, playing basketball, or playing catch.  All of these activities involve some visual component that involves varying distance vision.  They also get the natural light exposure and the physical activity itself is very beneficial.
  • Do some bird watching, either outside, or from a window inside.  This also requires more distance vision and focusing at variable distances.  Get a book on local birds, so that you and your child can look up and learn about the birds that you see.
  • Play a game of eye spy and try to “spy” things that are farther away and at different distances from you.  If you can play this outside, that is even better.
  • Play a board game.  This can provide a variety of vision activities, moving pieces around the board, reading from cards, etc., as well as helping kids to learn cooperative play and learn to follow the rules of a game.
  • Have your child read from a real book when possible instead of a screen.  Again, although it is near work, most people move a book around a bit while they are reading, or they adjust their own position, and the turning of pages provides a tiny break from the reading with every page.
I’m sure you can come up with more ideas as well.

If you have any questions about eye safety, please log into your account and send
us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor

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