We all experience eye strain from time to time. Whether we’re avid readers or our work keeps us glued to a computer screen all day, modern work and play taxes our eyes and our entire visual system now more than ever before in history.
Think about the number of images, emails, text messages, television shows, social media updates, books, and more that we consume each day of our lives today compared to our own childhood, or consider stark difference between the way we use our eyes each day and the way our great grandparents used their visual systems. It should come as no surprise that modern work, school, and entertainment can cause our eyes can become overworked if we are not careful.
For a child who is still in developmental stages of growth, eye strain can be particularly taxing. If that child has an functional vision problem, the effects of eye strain can severely interfere with learning. Even when well-rested, children with learning-related vision problems struggle more than their classmates to read, write, and perform in the classroom; so additional stress to the visual system can be particularly detrimental.
We suggest that all parents work with children to help them avoid and alleviate eye strain whenever possible. If your child has a vision problem, this is especially important.
Here are 5 tips to help your child ease eye strain:
1. Limit Screen Time
While there is nothing wrong with allowing your child to use smartphones, video games, computers, or tablets for fun and to develop comfort with technology, it’s important that you limit their screen time to protect their eyes. We understand that kids love their devices and this can cause fits or tantrums, so we suggest gradually replacing their screen time with other enjoyable activities.
2. Use Adequate Lighting
If you were the kid who tried to read under the covers with a flashlight despite your parents saying you’ll “ruin your eyes,” this tip might ring a bell. Keep in mind that if what you’re reading is brighter than the rest of the room, it will cause a strain on your eyes. This goes for back-lit screens or working in a dark room with a small desk lamp. So remember that your child will incur less eye strain if he works in a well-lit room, with preferably natural or full-spectrum lighting.
3. Work at a Proper Distance
Does your child sometimes try to write with his head down on his desk or read with his chin propped up on a book? It’s best to sit up straight and work with slightly more than a foot or an arm’s length distance away from the text. Your child may mistakenly believe reading closer is helping to ease the strain, but it is only making matters worse.
4. Take Breaks
Our eyes need an occasional break in order to avoid strain. Encourage your child to take a short break every 15 to 20 minutes. Put the book or pencil down and step away from the screen every so often. Ask her to get up and stretch, close her eyes tightly for a few moments, or focus on objects in the distance for awhile. Pushing a child to keep working, especially if she is already struggling with a vision problem, will only cause more eye strain and greater difficulty learning and performing.
5. Get Active
Children with functional vision problems sometimes not only struggle with learning, but they have difficulty with coordination, sports, and social interaction as well. For this reason, they may avoid outdoor and physical activities in favor of video games and television. Encourage your child to play outside when possible — go for walks and look around at the environment, play in the yard with the dog — activities that will give the eyes a break from working and stimulate the visual system in a different way.
If you suspect your child has a functional vision problem that is exacerbated by eye strain, help him or her to follow these tips. Then schedule a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist immediately. In addition to properly resting the eyes, an intensive vision therapy program will provide relief of unnecessary strain and improvement to vision.
If you are in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center today.