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To prepare students and their families for the new school year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is sharing a back-to-online school checklist to help prevent digital eye strain.
When coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) initially closed classrooms in the spring and sent students to a virtual setting in front of computer screens, Americans got a glimpse into the digital challenges of distance learning.
One key point learned is that children are not immune to developing tired, dry eyes from concentrating on laptops and tablets for extended periods of time. The discomfort drove some of them to their ophthalmologist, looking for relief.
To prepare students and their families for the new school year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is sharing a back-to-online school checklist to help prevent digital eye strain.
“I was a digital eye strain naysayer prior to recent events,” Stephen Lipsky, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist and clinical spokesperson for the AAO, said in a statement. “But in my practice, I really have seen a marked increase in kids suffering from eye strain because of increased screen time. Good news is most symptoms can be avoided by taking a few simple steps.”
The simple fact behind the headaches, blurry vision, and tired, dry eyes is that people don't blink as often while using computers and other digital devices, leaving eyes dry and irritated. And when individuals focus at the same distance for a long time, it can cause their vision to blur temporarily, and the muscles around the eye to tire, which can cause headaches. Extended reading, writing or other intensive near work can also cause eye strain.
To fix this problem, ophthalmologists recommend their patients take a 20 second break from near work every 20 minutes.
Ophthalmologists also can offer some pearls for parents to remind their children to follow this vital rule:
Good ergonomics is as important as resting the eyes periodically. Individuals tend to use digital devices at less than ideal distances and angles, which leads to eyestrain. To encourage good posture and better habits, set up a "home office" for students. Follow these tips to -optimize their workspace:
Lastly, ophthalmologists should urge parents to ensure their children spend some time outside. Increased computer use and other near work activities could drive an epidemic of nearsightedness in children. While this is not yet proven, several studies suggest that spending time outdoors, especially in early childhood, can slow the progression of nearsightedness.