Ten-year-old James Sharkey loves to play football and soccer, but he loves video games as well. He says he could play for hours at a time.
“Probably the most I’ve played is for five hours.”
Concerned about her son’s eyes, Sharkey’s mom Kathryn says at first she tried to limit his screen time, but once Sharkey started to complain of headaches, she decided to take him to an optometrist.
“He’s worn glasses for a few years, but I thought it was time for a new eye check. I’m glad we did take him because he was showing classic symptoms of digital eye strain.”
According to a recent survey by the Alberta Association of Optometrists, 59 per cent of Alberta parents are not aware or do not encourage their children to take steps during or after using digital devices to reduce the impact on their eyes
“Typical symptoms of digital eye strain include things like blurry vision, double vision, excessive blinking and squinting along with dry, tired eyes,” said Dr. Farah Lakhani, a Calgary optometrist.
“Quite often in children these symptoms are very hard to detect and they often exhibit as irritability, poor behaviour and reduced attention span.”
Lakhani says an optometrist can determine whether children are suffering from digital eye strain. Once diagnosed, there are several things that can be done to help alleviate symptoms.
“Whether that’s putting the child in glasses to relieve that eye strain and eye fatigue, or we can put a blue-light filter on their glasses, whether that’s with prescription or non-prescription lenses,” Lakhani said.
Parents can also encourage their children to take preventative measures to reduce their risk of digital eye strain.
- Take regular breaks
- Following the 20/20/20 rule by looking 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds
- Eliminate screen glare by reducing overhead lighting
- Position computers slightly below eye level and at arm’s length
- Increase text size on digital devices
- Adjust screen brightness