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Healthy Habits

Seven Tips to Help Prevent Eye Strain

Learn 7 tips to help prevent eye strain during distance learning and beyond.
4 min read
October 1, 2020
Dr. Jill Lundstrom
Board-Certified Pediatrician
Dr. Jill earned her MD at the University of Massachusetts. She believes that all children deserve access to quality healthcare to learn and thrive.

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As the summer comes to a close, most kids would normally be heading back to campus for their first day of school. This year, things may look a little different as many students begin classes virtually from home.

Parents are aware of the many challenges that come with distance learning. This may include trouble focusing, adjusting to changes in the learning environment, and kids simply missing their friends and teachers. Children also may express eye discomfort from an increase of screen time during distance learning. Eye strain may mean dry and irritated eyes, blurry vision, eye-watering, and even headaches.

What Causes Eye Strain?

When both adults and children look at screens, they blink less often, leaving the eyes tired and dry. And when people focus at the same distance for a long time, it can cause their vision to blur temporarily and the eyes to tire, which can cause headaches.  

Children may not be able to describe these symptoms to parents and may seem irritable and unable to focus after a session of online learning. Luckily, there are things we can do to create Eye-Friendly Virtual Classrooms.

Here are seven easy tips to make sure eye strain isn’t a stumbling block for distance learning:

1. Set the screen at the right place.
Measure the distance between the screen and your student’s eyes while he or she is sitting. It should be between 20-30 inches away.

2. Follow the 20-20-20 Rule.
Set a timer every 20-minutes to remind your child to look away from the screen, ideally at an object 20 feet away, for 20-seconds.

3. Rethink your screen-time rules.
Now that your child is being asked to use screens a lot more for school, it may be time to reconsider screen time rules across phones, TV, and video games. Try making recreational screen time a group activity, like calling family on Zoom, hosting a game night with friends, or watching a movie together. This will allow you to monitor these activities, and gauge what’s working.  

4. Turn off electronic devices at least one hour before bed.
Screen time right before bed can have an impact on sleep. To help make sure your kids get a good night of rest, try setting a digital curfew for your family.

5. Adjust the screen so that there is no tilt.
Looking straight at the screen without needing to adjust eyes downward can help reduce strain.

6. Turn down the brightness and turn up the contrast on your screen settings.
Match the screen brightness to your child’s workspace brightness. A good rule is to look at a white background on your child’s screen, and if it shines like a light source in the room, it’s too bright. If it seems gray, it’s probably too dark.

7. Clean the computer screen at least once a week.
Dust on the screen can cause additional strain when your child is trying to read words or focus on images through the layer of dust.

This is a stressful time for everyone. We are using electronic devices now more than ever to stay connected to school, work, family, and friends. When you can, try to take at least 30 to 60 minutes every day to be outside, play, and exercise.

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