Pediatrician discusses preventing eye strain while virtual learning

Pediatrician discusses preventing eye strain while virtual learning

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As students in all grade levels get back to learning virtually, doctors say it will be important to make sure students’ screen time does not cause eye strain.

“Eye strain not only can cause pain in the eyes, double vision or blurred vision, it can also cause headaches, you might have some neck pain” explained Dr. Philip Valmores, a pediatrician with Bon Secours. “What would be important is to make sure their screen is a safe distance away. Typically with a laptop computer, it should be an arms-length away. Of course, having it too close or too far can lead to eye strain.”

Dr. Valmores says ambient light in a room can impact someone’s eyes while they are spending a long time looking at a screen.

“If the room is too bright that can cause strain when looking at the computer, and if the room is too dim that can cause strain,” he said.

For students who go to the pediatrician for annual wellness checks, Dr. Valmores says vision screenings are standard.

“Especially with children entering kindergarten, we make sure they are seeing well enough to attend school successfully. Now that school is going online, it definitely brings a new part to our wellness visits to address the eye strain,” he said.

While most school districts’ daily virtual learning schedules will include breaks that allow children to step away and log off, the “20-20-20 rule” is important to keep in mind while sitting in front of a computer screen.

“Something that I learned from my own children’s eye doctor - take a break every 20 minutes from your screen,” he said. “Your break should be at least 20 seconds long and you should be able to look at something 20 feet away. Again, just to really relax your eyes from looking at the computer so long. It is the 20-20-20 rule.”

At night, he suggests children put an end their screen time at least an hour before bedtime in order to help them wind down and sleep better. Dr. Valmores says it will be important for parents to take note of any changes in a child’s vision during virtual learning.

“Children are very open with their feelings so if they say they are having trouble seeing, or if they are saying their eyes hurt or they’re burning, that would be a good reason to have their eyes checked,” he explained.

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