Congratulations – you’ve made it to August! As an unquestionably unique summer draws to a close, parents and kids across the state prepare for the uncertainty of back to school in our “new normal” environment. Some students may begin their school year with virtual classes and increased screen time, others will be attending school and getting started in Fall sports. During Eye Health and Safety Month, keep your children’s eye health top of mind to avoid potential vision problems caused by digital devices and sports injuries.

Screen Time Risks

We are all spending more time at home – working, learning, socializing, and relaxing. For most people, this has resulted in a significant increase in time spent on computers, tablets,  smartphones, and in front of the television. While there are no specific screen time limits set by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, your risk of developing the following conditions are higher the more time you and your children spend on digital devices:

  • Digital eye strain leading to dry, itchy eyes and blurry vision
  • Nearsightedness due to close work, reading, and reduction in outdoor time
  • Sleep disruption due to excessive blue light exposure
  • Obesity due to lack of exercise
  • Increased risk of ADHD (according to a study of preschoolers who had more than 2 hours of screen time per day)

We know it’s not easy to set screen time limits, especially with online classes (and working from home), but it’s important that you and your children put down the devices as often as possible: get outdoors, exercise, play games, play with your pet and connect as a family. Introducing them to new crafts and activities can offer entertainment for everyone – not just the kiddos.

The most important tip is to go easy on yourself and your kids. Technology is a way of life these days and we all need devices to feel connected to family and friends – especially during this pandemic. When on your device, set a timer to help each other follow the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Remind each other to blink often and keep digital devices at least 18-24” away from your eyes.

Fall Sports 

Districts across the state are closely monitoring their communities to determine the start of fall sports, and if your child’s sport gets the green light, be sure to make their eye safety a top priority. 90% of sports-related eye injuries, such as blunt trauma and penetration injuries, can be prevented by wearing protective eyewear. Don’t let your child begin the season unprotected – certified protective goggles, glasses, or eye shields are all ways to save your child from sustaining a devastating eye injury.

How to Spot Vision Problems

Despite your best efforts to protect against excessive screen time, it’s important to know the warning signs that your child may be experiencing issues with their vision. Your child may not verbalize their vision problems, but you can watch for clues that may signify a problem: squinting, eye strain, eye rubbing, light sensitivity, redness, frequent headaches, and crossed eyes. Sitting too close to the television or having difficulty reading may also be warning signs.

If you notice any of these signs, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with your family eye doctor!