How to protect your kids’ eye health as they distance learn
Some parents may be wondering why their children are complaining about eye strain and not wanting to study, especially in light of the education situation brought on by COVID-19 problems. Specialist Dr. Paul Gaede, O.D., has helped both children and adults at Eye Medical Center of Fresno for 31 years, and he has some advice for parents and caregivers on how to monitor their kids’ eye health.
From Dr. Gaede: There are some basic guidelines or suggestions that can help make visual tasks easier when the kids are at home and using various electronics to learn with.
To check eye health, I would start with a simple questions to youngsters, “How do your eyes feel?” If they say “fine,” great. But you may want to look for these indications of eye strain:
- Holding items really close to see
- Squinting a lot
- Excessive blinking
- Leaning on one side in order to block off one eye when reading
- Not wanting to do any close work at all
- Saying their eyes are hurting or strained
If you notice your child doing any of the above, consider a visit to your local eye care professional. It helps to have the eyes working together and at their best when doing these concentrated visual tasks.
Ways to Protect Kids’ Eye Health at Home
When a good baseline for vision has been established, several common sense rules can be used. The first is the 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 minutes of close work, have your child take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet or farther away. This gets the eyes to relax their focus and changes the posture of the eye muscles, giving the system a much-needed break.
The next important item is blinking. When reading, encourage them to try to get into the habit of blinking at every other period they encounter when reading. Or when on the computer, every time they click the mouse or hit enter. They should be blinking at least once every 8 to 12 seconds.
Sometimes it is fun to watch a child (or an adult for that matter) when they play video games, to monitor their blink rate. They get so involved with the gaming, they really slow down the blink rate, and sometimes develop exposure keratitis (dry eye), like chapped lips, due to poor blink habits.
But back to good study habits. Proper illumination—good lighting with not much glare—helps the eyes stay on task and work much easier. As to blue light blocking lenses or using settings on devices to reduce blue light, they can be helpful but it varies as to each individual. So use those if you wish to. And if your child is watching you use power tools, safety eyewear is always advised.
So in quick review: Make sure when working with devices or books that your child is blinking, taking breaks after 20 minutes of close work, and has proper illumination and, if needed, correct prescription eyewear.
If you’ve noticed changes in your child’s vision, or in your own, feel free to call Eye Medical Center today to set up an appointment with one of our specialists at (559) 486-5000.