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How Screens Impact Your Child’s Vision (And How to Help)

kid screen time

Digital technology can be a wonderful tool for families. It is a never ending source of entertainment and education. It connects us to those we love who are far away.

Technology and screens are a part of everyday life. And while they provide many amazing benefits, there is a downside.

Excessive screen time has been shown to negatively impact a child’s development and health in many ways. This includes eye health.

Read below to learn how screen time can impact your child’s eyes and what you can do to help.

child screen time tablet1. Myopia

Myopia (nearsightedness) is a common eye problem. It can come at any age, but more and more children are developing the condition as statistics climb in recent years.

Screen Time & Myopia

More children have been diagnosed with myopia in recent years than ever have been before.


Studies are mixed, but eye doctors agree that increased screen time in young kids is partially to blame.

Myopia (nearsightedness) is a concern in children because it can often lead to a progressive decrease in vision throughout childhood before eyesight settles around the age of 20.

What You Can Do

There are many ways you can help prevent myopia or slow down its effects. Reducing screen time is one of the top ways you can prevent myopia.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry recommends the following screen time allotment for the age ranges below:

  • 0-2 years: No screen time (except video calling family)
  • 2-5 years: 1 hour a day with a parent
  • 5-17 years: 1 hour per day on weeknights; 3 hours per day on weekends (not counting screentime due to homework))

When your children are using screens, whether it be for educational or leisure purposes, have them take breaks periodically so their eyes can rest. During daytime hours it is beneficial to get outdoor light during screen time breaks. Natural light can help eye health and is a welcome change of scenery from backlighting for your eyes.

Many kids enjoy screens as a way to have fun or relax. Help your kids decrease their screen time usage by encouraging other hobbies or interests and taking part in them with your children. This might mean taking the time to introduce them to new things or sharing with them your hobbies and interests and seeing if they spark something in your child.

2. Eye Strain

child laying on the floor who has a headache from eyestrain

Eye strain is a common complaint among children who have regular screen time. This can lead to discomfort and other problems.

Eye Strain Symptoms

Common symptoms of eye strain include:

  • Itchy or burning eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Headaches
  • Dry eyes
  • Tired eyes
  • Blurry vision that isn’t permanent and goes away
  • Double Vision
  • Red eyes

If your child is experiencing symptoms of eye strain, it is important to take them to an optometrist for an eye exam. An optometrist will help to rule out other conditions and ensure that your child does not have blurry vision that needs correction.

What You Can Do

Minimizing screen time will help relieve eye strain, but when you can’t minimize it more than you already have, there are other solutions that can help.

20/20 Rule

One of the easiest and most effective solutions to eye strain is the 20/20 rule. The 20/20 rule essentially says that whenever you are using a screen you need to stop what you are doing every 20 minutes and look across the room or in the distance for 20 seconds to give your eyes a break.

You can help your kids do this by setting a timer or alarms that go off every 20 minutes or by simply reminding them to take a break. Young kids will get a kick out of learning how to set their own timer and will revel in their small amount of independence as they reset the timer for another 20 minutes after they have completed a break.

You can also find ways to make their 20-second break fun by incorporating a song, an extra challenge–such as standing on one foot, or hanging something new or funny on the wall in the distance for them to notice during their break. It is important to find a way to make this habit stick from a young age since screens are not going anywhere soon. The 20/20 rule is helpful for people of all ages; your children will continue to benefit from this practice as long as they are frequently using screens.

Smart Screen Practices

It is unrealistic to expect children to give up all screen time. Instead, encourage your kids to make smart decisions when they are using screens.

Sit instead of lay down

Have your child sit instead of laying down when they are using a screen. Laying down while looking at a screen causes more eye strain.

Stagger screen time

outside screen time break children

Another positive practice is to stagger screen time with outdoor time and other non-screen activities.

Encourage your child to spend time outside between their screen activities. Outdoor light is beneficial for children’s developing eyes and can decrease the potential for future eye problems. It is also possible that a fun outdoor activity might become so engrossing that your child forgets about the leisure screen time they wanted and won’t return to the idea for the day.

The Importance of Good Eye Hygiene

Routine eye exams are important for children so issues can be caught early and treated. In addition to visiting an optometrist, help your kids remember safe screen practices, such as the 20/20 rule and taking breaks outside so they can maintain healthy eyes. You can help your kids prevent eye strain by encouraging eye-healthy activities.

Encourage good screen habits and lead by example. Don’t beat yourself up too much over the number of screens in your children’s lives; many of them are inevitable. Instead, focus on trying to limit screen time where you can and enjoy screen-free entertainment whenever possible. All of these things will diminish the likelihood of your child developing myopia or suffering from eye strain.

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