In today’s current scenario, it is fair to say that the COVID-19 reality is far different from our usual routine. In our new routine, day-care and schools are cancelled, parents are working from home and families are engaging in social distancing.
It is understandable that children will tend to use screens (television, devices, tablets, video games) more than they typically would due to the restrictions of stepping out and dire need of social distancing. In the current wired world, one typical way to occupy children is to use digital media to engage the children while parents attend to their professional obligations.
However, the latest World Health Organization recommendation for screen time for children under age 5 is one hour or less and for those under age 1 is no time at all on a daily basis. Several other studies have also claimed that excessive screen time may damage the brain, especially regions responsible for emotional processing, decision-making, attention and cognitive control.
During this three-week lockdown, the children are now attending classes online and are restricted to go outdoors which thus, increases their daily screen time. Considering that childhood is a period of rapid development and a time when family lifestyle patterns can be adapted to boost health gains, children should spend more time engaged in physical activity at home and getting enough sleep. An improvement in the child’s physical activity and ensuring quality sleep will not only improve their eye health but will also prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life.
The negative effects of increased screen time
There is no doubt about the fact that an increase in screen time leads to a high digital eyestrain. Children are no different from adults when it comes to digital eyestrain. They can experience adverse effects in their eye sight which can vary from dry eye to eye strain to blurry vision, as well. A continuous increase in screen time can also increase the chance of developing Myopia, which will eventually only progress further. While the symptoms are not permanent, they can be frequent depending on the child’s screen time in the entire day. There are also other adverse effects of increased screen time which includes Obesity, disturbances in sleep cycle and challenges in one’s academic performance.
8 ways to protect your child’s eyes from computer eyestrain:
· Whenever there’s a need to use computers and other digital devices like Television, iPad, smartphones etc, ensure that your child takes a 20 second break from the screen in every 20 minutes
· Try to avoid using a computer outside or in brightly lit areas, as the glare on the screen can create strain
· Regulate the brightness and contrast of your computer screen so that it feels comfortable to you
· Ensure that your child sits in a good posture while using a computer or any other digital device
· When your child starts using any digital device, ensure to set a kitchen or smart device timer to keep a track of the time and ensuring protection of your child’s eyes.
· Holding digital devices 18 to 24 inches away is ideal; encourage your child to do the same
· Remind your child to blink while watching a screen
· Create a distraction at home that causes your child to spend less time on the screen. This can include nurturing a new hobby, playing board games, spending quality time with them or ensuring a fixed routine which is also beneficial and fun for them
The lockdown is difficult for all age groups and every person across the world, but we have to ensure that the children have a fruitful time at home which helps them grow and learn. The caveat to ensure less screen time and healthy eyesight for your child is simply that, like all tools, our digital tools have to be used with proper care, attention and responsibility.