Lethbridge optometrists concerned about increased screen time for kids

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WATCH: A survey conducted by the Alberta Association of Optometrists found 75 per cent of parents are concerned about their children's increased screen time since the start of the pandemic. As Erik Bay reports, local optometrists are seeing more young patients with eye issues – Apr 30, 2021

If your kids are complaining about their eyes more than usual amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there could be an obvious culprit.

More time at home is leading to more time on screens for kids. A survey by the Alberta Association of Optometrists says nearly 50 per cent of a child’s waking hours are spent on electronic devices.

“It’s not really a shock, especially with the current year we’ve been having and as a parent, it’s not really a shock either,” said Dr. Maggie Gibb, an optometrist at Iris Optometrists & Opticians in Lethbridge.

Seventy-five per cent of parents who responded to the survey said they were concerned about their children’s increased screen time and Gibb says since the pandemic began, she’s been treating more children for conditions normally seen in her adult patients.

“Prescribing smaller prescriptions that normally, we feel children are so adaptable we don’t normally need to prescribe for that,” said Gibb.

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Visual Effects optometrist Dr. Mansoor Choudhry says the concern about elevated screen time is staring at screens is hard on the eyes.

“They really decrease their blink rate so that can lead to more dryness and irritated eyes. It’s already pretty dry here in Alberta, especially down south when it gets pretty windy.”

Both optometrists recommend following the 20-20-20 rule to give your kids’ eyes a break.

“Every twenty minutes look at something far away, at least 20 feet or you can close your eyes for at least 20 seconds,” Choudhry said. “For kids we recommend they do it a little bit more, maybe 15 minutes for a little bit longer.”

The AAO recommends playing outside, limiting your child’s screen time and turning off devices an hour before bedtime. With her own kids, Gibb looks for other activities to occupy their time.

“We do more cards, board games, ongoing Battleship and Monopoly games in our house, so we try our best to avoid that screen time.”

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