Protecting Your Kid’s Vision

As our world becomes more and more connected, we’re spending more and more time in front of phones, tablets and computer screens.

This is becoming a rising issue for parents who are increasingly concerned about the health of the their children’s vision.

Studies have shown that that children spend an average of 7 1/2 hours a day in front of some sort of screen from the age of 8 through 18.

And this isn’t all entertainment, a lot of this time is spent doing schoolwork.

An interesting statistic that highlights some of the results of this behavior is that in the last 30 years near-sightedness (myopia) has increased from 25% to 42% in the United States. It has been indicated that these rising numbers are directly connected to spending more time in front of screens.

This trend is concerning parents who are wondering what some of the long term affects of this behavior is. The reality is that more kids are stressed out and not just because of their intense workload, but also because of the visual stress that they’re causing themselves.

The Cause of Visual Stress

When we read and use the computer, the muscles of our eyes activate and retract. This is a good thing, this is what allows us see objects that are close up. The problem is that the more time we spend with our eyes in this position without giving them a break, the faster we’re going to cause eye strain and visual stress.

As our kids (and ourselves!) spend more time in from of digital screens, it is imperative that we teach our children and ourselves to take care of our eyes.

In China regular eye exercises are part of the day of every Chinese schoolchild. At set intervals throughout the day they will all stop what they’re doing and exercise their eyes. Doing the same in the United States would not be hard, but it would need to be implemented.

(One reason it might not, has to do with the power of the optical industry and it’s desire to get everyone into glasses which ensures a customer for life. You can read more about that here, here, and here.)

Tips for Keeping Your Kid’s Vision Healthy

But don’t worry, our eyes and our bodies are designed to respond to correct medicine and exercise. Our eyes can be exercised and we can teach our kids how to do it as well. Here are a few tips that will keep your kid’s vision healthy. (But I can’t guarantee it will be easy.)

  • Limit Kid’s Access to Screens: Easier said then done, but you can do your best to limit screen time as much as possible. One way to do this is to only allow your child to use the computer or phone for quick things like texting (this doesn’t include schoolwork). Make sure that the screen (especially a handheld device) is at least a forearms distance from their face, and don’t allow them to play games or watch videos on the device.
  • Make the computer area ergonomic for your child: If you sit at your desk all day then your chair and desk are designed for you. When your child has to do homework assignments (which take longer then the rule mentioned above) adjust your chair to accomedate them. You can also get a computer desk that can be easily adjusted to their height.
    Having a work environment that you child is comfortable in will reduce strain on their body (especially the back, shoulders and neck). This in turn will also help reduce visual stress.
  • Teach Your Kids How to Rest Their Eyes and How to do Eye Exercises: Teach your kids how to use the power of 10 to relax their eyes. There are a number of other exercises you can teach them. I have posts about them here and here.

As a parent you should also pay attention to your kids if they’re rubbing their eyes, squinting, complaining of headaches after reading, or blurred vision. If they have any of the above symptoms, take them to a behavioral optomotrist to have their eyes examined.

Click here for my post on how to choose the best eye doctor.

(Photo credit demadaj)

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