The holidays are coming up, and many of us—especially children on winter break—will be spending a lot of time on our devices. But too much screen time can cause symptoms like dry eye, eye strain, and impaired concentration.

In this video, Dr. Isabelle Leclerc, optometrist and co-owner of the Opto-Réseau Terrebonne clinic, explains what causes eye strain in children, what symptoms to watch for, and how to prevent this uncomfortable condition linked to the use of electronic devices.

 

Symptoms of eye strain to watch for include:

  • Red eyes

  • Dry eyes

  • Watery eyes

  • Headaches

  • Frequent blinking

  • Burning or stinging eyes

  • Blurred or double vision

In some cases, eye strain can make children lose focus and the motivation to read. Consider monitoring their screen time and suggesting other things to do besides being on a device.

 

The Canadian Association of Optometrists also has some simple solutions to help reduce the risk of digital eye strain:

  • Position your screen about an arm’s length from your eyes and 20 degrees below eye level.

  • Adjust the screen colour and contrast.

  • Match the brightness of your screen to your surroundings. Activating night mode on tablets, computers, and phones when the sun goes down can also help.

  • Position your screen so that it sits perpendicular to windows and other bright light sources to minimize reflected glare.

  • Use a protective anti-glare screen cover.

  • Keep the screen clean (i.e. free of dust, fingerprints, and other dirt) to improve clarity.

  • Take breaks to blink. When you’re intently focused on something—watching a film or playing a video game, for instance—you tend to forget to blink, causing eye strain and dry eye.

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Teach children to take a break every 20 minutes and focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This gives their eyes a much-needed break and helps alleviate the symptoms of eye strain and dry eye. You can also limit their screen time (e.g., 20 minutes once or twice a day).

According to Canadian Paediatric Society guidelines, children under age 2 should not be exposed to screens at all and kids age 2 to 5 should be limited to no more than one hour a day.

If these symptoms continue or worsen, it’s important to consult your eye care professional. Children should also have a routine eye exam once a year—it’s covered by Régie de l’assurance maladie for children under 18. Make an appointment today so your kids can ring in 2020 with 20/20 vision! 

Thank you to Dr. Isabelle Leclerc, optometrist and co-owner of the Opto-Réseau Terrebonne clinic, for her valuable input.