Last updated on Jun 23rd, 2021 at 02:30 pm

We’ve all been warned about screen time eye strain, but what can you do to protect your and your children’s eyes?

From phones to tablets and TVs, we’re all spending more and more time looking at screens.

Could this be damaging our eyes and, what effect does it have on children?

Ophthalmologists, physicians who specialise in medical and surgical eye care, are seeing a marked increase in children with dry eye and eye strain from too much screen time.

But does digital eyestrain cause lasting damage? Should your child use reading glasses or computer glasses?

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Is screen time linked to near-sightedness?

There is a world-wide epidemic of myopia, also known as near-sightedness.

Since 1971, the incidence of nearsightedness in the US has nearly doubled, to 42 percent. In Asia, up to 90 percent of teenagers and adults are near-sighted.

Clearly, something is going on. But scientists can’t agree on exactly what.

A new study appearing in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, offers further evidence that at least part of the worldwide increase in near-sightedness has to do with near work activities – not just screens but also books.

And, that spending time outdoors – especially in early childhood – can slow the progression of near-sightedness.

It remains unclear whether the rise in near-sightedness is due to focusing on phones all the time, or to light interacting with our circadian rhythms to influence eye growth, or none of the above.

While scientists look for a definitive answer, there is no doubt that most computer users – adults and kids – experience digital eyestrain. This may include dry eye, eye strain, headaches, and blurry vision.

Related: Are your kids addicted to screen time?

10 Tips to help prevent screen related eyestrain

To prevent digital eye strain, we need to take more frequent breaks from screens because we don’t blink as often while using computers and other digital devices.

Ophthalmologists recommend taking a 20-second break from near work – like reading or writing – every 20 minutes.

Here are 10 ways to help prevent screen related eyestrain:

  1. Set a kitchen timer or a smart device timer to remind you and your family to take 20-second breaks every 20  minutes during near work or screen time.
  2. Alternate reading an e-book with a real book and try to look up and out of the window every two chapters.
  3. After completing a level in a video game, look out of the window for 20 seconds.
  4. Pre-mark books with a paperclip every few chapters to remind your child to look up. On an e-book, use the “bookmark” function for the same effect.
  5. Avoid using a computer outside or in brightly lit areas, as the glare on the screen can create strain.
  6. Adjust the brightness and contrast of your computer screen so that it feels comfortable to you.
  7. Use good posture when using a computer and when reading.
  8. Encourage your child to hold digital media further away, 46 – 60 centimetres is ideal.
  9. Create a distraction that causes your child to look up every now and then.
  10. Remind them to blink when watching a screen.

Learn to stop and take a break

“I prefer to teach kids better habits, instead of supplying them a crutch like reading glasses to enable them to consume even more media,” says K. David Epley, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

“If you run too far and your legs start hurting, you stop. Likewise, if you’ve been reading too long or watching videos too long and your eyes start hurting, you should stop.”

Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology via

Related: How screen time affects children’s sleep

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.