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Doctors suggest children get regular eye screenings due to extra screen time from remote learning

Children at home sitting on sofa, playing with laptop
Posted at 11:15 AM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-27 10:29:06-04

CLEVELAND — Parents are constantly trying to monitor their children's screen time to protect their eyes and their overall health.

But since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the traditional schooling methods, laptops and tablets have become mainstays in at-home learning. As a result, all that extra screen time may be causing eye issues.

A child’s eyesight can change significantly as they grow and most problems are caught by a routine vision screening at school. But if parents notice things like their child squinting or turning their head more to try and focus, it may be time to get them an appointment with an optometrist.

“It’s important to get your eyes screened to make sure that each eye is seeing well because if you catch it at an early age, things are treatable,” said Dr. Allison Babiuch, a pediatric ophthalmologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Regular eye exams also help ward off unwanted eye strain and poor eyesight down the road. The problems can escalate to cause issues like headaches, fatigue, and lack of focus while kids are in school

“Most kids are far-sighted, and that’s actually a normal thing for kids,” said Dr. Babiuch. “Their eyes are really strong so they can focus their eyes and be able to see well without needing glasses.”

Normally, in school, kids are looking across the classroom at a board. But with online schooling, the classroom has been moved to right in front of their face. When partnered with less time outdoors due to the pandemic, doctors are seeing more cases of children becoming nearsighted.

“We know that being outside, in the sunlight and having to look far away can help with slowing the growth of nearsightedness,” said Babiuch. “We think last year was the perfect storm of being stuck inside, staring at small screens and not being outside."

One tip to avoid these problems is the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, kids should look at something that’s 20 feet away for 20 seconds while looking at a screen.

Some parents have turned to blue-light glasses, which block blue-light wavelengths from screens, but the glasses are not really addressing those problems.

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