Virtual learning could affect children’s eyesight

Numerous school districts across Wisconsin have opted for virtual learning this fall due to COVID-19, and parents should encourage healthy habits to help their kids avoid eye strain.

Virtual learning isn’t likely to affect a child’s vision as long as he or she steps away from the screen for awhile, according to SSM Health Davis Duehr Dean Eye Care.

“In general, we don’t have a major concern about screen time causing harm for school-aged kids,” said

Dr. Katherine Hare, SSM Health pediatric ophthalmologist, in a statement. “That’s as long as kids are taking breaks and getting outside. We do have reason to believe that too much indoor time and possibly extended near-focusing can predispose children to myopia, often called nearsightedness.”

Digital eye strain can be a concern for people who work or use a computer or tablet for long periods of time. A common complaint is dry eyes because people don’t blink as often when viewing a screen. This, however, usually affects adults more often than children. Still, kids may show signs of eye strain.

To avoid strain, take frequent breaks and make an effort to blink more often. Artificial tears or dry eye drops may also be used.

“There is a muscle in our eye that helps the lens sustain near focus, and we refer to this ability as ‘accommodation,’” said Hare. “And kids’ eyes are really good at accommodating so it’s not usually a problem.”

Hare noted that some children have an underlying condition that causes them to focus more than usual, which can cause strain and headaches. If a child complains of frequent headaches or eye fatigue while reading or focusing on devices, schedule an eye exam.

Adults and children should practice the 20-20-20 rule. After 20 minutes of near-focusing, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds to help ward off fatigue.


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