School is Starting: Take a Break from the Screens!

Girls On ComputersAccording to A.C. Nielson Co., the average American watches more than four hours of TV each day. This equals two months per year of non-stop TV watching per year. If the trend is continued, a 65-year old will have spent nine years of life in front of the tube! What happened to the rules about sitting too close to the TV will make you go blind, or too much TV will rot your brain? I guess kids these days aren’t as gullible. Watching TV, playing video games and surfing the internet is at an all-time high, and reading books, playing outside and doing homework is at an all-time low.

Almost 50 percent of all children today spend four or more hours in front of computers and electronic devices. According to Dr. Mark Borchert of the Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, sitting in front of a computer or TV for four hours per day will not damage kids’ eyesight. However, too much screen time can cause children to develop blurred vision and headaches after too much computer time or video game playing. Focusing too long on one object can have many other negative consequences such as decreased social interaction and less time spent doing homework.

Instead of the idea that sitting too close to the TV will cause a child to need glasses, it may be safe to assume that a child needs glasses because he or she sits so close to the TV. If your child is constantly sitting close to the TV or is leaning into the computer screen, you should schedule a comprehensive eye exam. You may want to talk to your child’s teacher to see if the teacher has noticed any similar patterns in the classroom or in the computer lab (Source: Children’s Hospital Los Angeles).

Even though the TV or computer screen is not damaging to your child’s eyesight, too much screen time can cause eye strain. Some common symptoms of eye strain are blurry vision, sensitivity to light, headaches, and watery, itchy or burning eyes. The solution to screen-related eye strain is some good old-fashioned parental guidance.  Here are some tips to help your child avoid eye strain:

  1. Children under two should not watch any TV at all, since the first two years of life are critical in brain development and establishing social and physical development.
  2. For children ages 2-18, establish some ground rules of less than two hours of screen time per day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of quality, non-violent programming per day.
  3. Encourage the “20/20/20 Rule”:  Every 20 minutes, look away from the screen for at least 20 seconds at something at least 20 feet away.
  4. Blink often—Staring at a screen causes us to blink less often, but this can result in dry eye and blurred vision. Blinking more often will moisten and lubricate the eyes.
  5. Wear correct eyewear—If your child wears glasses or contacts, insist that he or she wears corrective lenses when watching TV or using a computer (Source: Mayo Clinic).

As school is getting ready to start, get those kids outside to play. Ride a bike, play tag and visit a park. Take a visit to the local library and check out some books that interest your children and schedule a “Reading Night” for the whole family. Sometimes it just takes some creativity to break old habits and replace screen time with something new!