Rory Devine

Preserving Eyesight Amid Increased Screen Time is as Easy as 20-20-20

After a year of distance learning during the pandemic, doctors are finding some children may not be seeing from medium and long distances as well as they used to

NBC Universal, Inc.

A reminder for parents whose children are headed back to school for in-person person learning: If they sit in the back of the room and are having trouble seeing the board, they may need to have their eyes checked.

Those continuing with distance learning should remember to take breaks from their screens.

“You just know that screen time isn't good for children, to have that much, you know,” said parent Jenn Smith, who has two young children, including a 1st grade daughter who spends at least two hours a day on Zoom doing school work and homework during the pandemic.  “Before we were never really on there at all, so it’s definitely a lot more than we've ever been.”

Some children are experiencing things like headaches, blurry vision and difficulty focusing, reports NBC 7's Rory Devine.

Doctor Matt Dicksen has an urgent care facility in the South Bay. For five years he has given high school athletes their physicals to play sports.

“It was overwhelming from year to year, from last year to this year, how many kids could not read the eye chart,” he said.

Though anecdotal, he said more middle and high school students cannot see far away, or as well as they used to be able to see. He agrees this has been a phenomenon that has been going on for the last 10 to 15 years, "but there's been this exponential jump this year because so many kids aren't sitting in the classroom, they're sitting face to face with a computer screen."

A study from Emory University in Atlanta studied the prevalence of myopia in school-aged children in China during the COVID lockdown. The study found after six months in quarantine the myopia rate for 6, 7 and 8-year-olds had increased, with the largest increase in 6-year-olds.

Smith’s daughters’ eyes are healthy, but she wants to keep them that way so she makes sure they take breaks.   

Dicksen said the 20-20-20 rule could help -- for every 20 minutes on your device, look up and away 20 feet, for 20 seconds. 

“Look around, use your eyes to look far and close and keep those muscles strengthened in those eyes that are used to working in both directions, like they're supposed to, not just in front of a screen all day long," he explained

Dicksen said he wants parents and teachers to be aware.

“Get your kids' eyes checked because they could be struggling with headaches, squinting, and blurry vision," he said.

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