Tag Archives: eye strain

Will too much screen time make functional vision problems worse?

Will too much screen time make functional vision problems worse?

The Visual Learning Center offers
developmental optometry & vision therapy
near Silver Spring, MD in Olney.

Modern technology requires more from a child’s visual processing system than ever before. Compared to a generation ago, kids use their vision in different ways. They spend far less time than their parents did outside on the playground, exploring the outdoors, or enjoying activities that do not involve staring at screens with backlit text and digital images.

Whether it’s for pure entertainment, completing school assignments, or Facetiming with grandparents, screen time has become central to learning, communication, and fun.

From ActivBoards, Promethean boards, and computer screens at school to televisions, smartphones, tablets, and game devices at home, screens demand their attention throughout the day.

But humans don’t evolve as quickly as technology and visual systems can become damaged if we don’t make some effort to limit screen time, especially for children as they develop. Lack of exposure to sunlight and too much screen time can tax even the healthiest vision and affect the development of the eyes, which can even cause or worsen nearsightedness and exacerbate existing functional vision problems.

Surfing the web, watching YouTube, and playing video games can be fun and educational; but if children are looking at screens throughout the day at school and home, their eyes will become tired and their visual processing system can become fatigued.

Download our free guide: “10 Things You Need to Know About Vision” here.

For a child with an existing learning-related vision problem — which all-too-often goes undiagnosed — symptoms of vision problems such as amblyopia, convergence insufficiency, strabismus, accommodative dysfunction, or visual processing deficiencies can become more pronounced.

Signs or symptoms your child has an undetected functional vision problem include:

  • Reversing letters when reading or writing
  • Skipping letters, words, or lines when reading or writing
  • Double vision or blurred vision even with 20/20 eyesight
  • Trouble copying from the board even with 20/20 eyesight
  • Confusing similar looking words
  • Reading below grade level or low reading comprehension skills
  • Messy handwriting
  • Physical problems when reading, such as dizziness and nausea, tiredness, or eye strain
  • Attention or behavior problems that resemble ADD/ADHD
  • Squinting or bending close to the paper to read, covering or closing one eye, or tilting head to an unusual angle while reading
  • Clumsiness, social awkwardness, lack of coordination when playing sports

Too much screen time can increase eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, double vision, motion sickness, and other physical symptoms of vision deficiencies. Reading, writing, and school performance becomes even more challenging because the child has had little time to rest their strained visual system.

But cutting your child’s access to technology altogether isn’t the answer. In the 21st Century, being proficient with technology will be important to your child’s long-term success and happiness. Instead, we suggest limiting screen time and encouraging more time in the sunlight or engaging in other types of activities.

If you suspect your child might have a learning-related vision problem, schedule functional vision exam with an optometrist who specializes in developmental vision care and vision therapy as soon as possible.

If your child does have a learning-related vision problem, they can best enjoy technology along with their peers if they have undergone vision therapy training to strengthen their vision system.

If you are in Olney, Maryland, or nearby Silver Spring, Maryland, contact the Visual Learning Center today.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

5 Tips to Help Your Child Ease Eye Strain

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.