One of our recent Meet-a-Mom’s, Dr. Neda Gioia, is a local optometrist and owner of Integrative Vision in Shrewsbury, NJ. She shares with The Monmouth Moms some tips on how to avoid digital eye strain in kids as we enter a new school year.
Digital eye strain and computer vision syndrome used to be a conversation for patients working in IT, now it’s a kid thing.
My first advice to moms is: ENGAGE, ENGAGE, ENGAGE! Involve the kids in setting up their learning space and tell them about what is actually being done to help them — and let them help. That way they are invested in the decisions, even if it is a passive effort.
Given the current situation of remote learning, that so many of us moms are grappling with, and coupled with the increase in down time at home for kids during the pandemic, it is imperative that we incorporate nutrition and behavior recommendations into our children’s home and school computer stations.
Habits are formed early, and adults should also lead by example. The conversation about screen time should be a plan for the family at this point, before the start of school, so that children understand why the effort is being made to protect their vision.
What follows is a checklist that might be helpful in alleviating some of the issues kids can have with digital eye strain. And, I’m always available to any local mom, to answer other questions about kids and screen time.
Remember we can only try our best and even a few changes of the workstation may really do wonders.
*First start with a routine eye exam. Parents often are poorly informed regarding the frequency of eye exams for kids. See this link for formal guidelines https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/caring-for-your-eyes/eye-exams?sso=y
*A properly setup workstation, with recommended chair angles that keep the screen at least 16-30 inches away from the eyes. The perfect length would be somewhere between 20-26 inches. Feet should be flat on the floor with the seat supporting the legs without excess pressure.
*The top of the screen should be slightly below horizontal eye level. This helps to reduce the amount of the cornea that is exposed, and helps with dryness and eye fatigue since we tend to blink much less when engaged in computer/digital use.
*Match the brightness of the room to the screen. Remember a dim room means larger pupils and that allows more damaging light into the eyes.
*Use anti-glare screens and the screens should be perpendicular to windows or bright lighting. Look for the AOA Seal of Acceptance when purchasing a glare reduction filter
*Start enforcing the 20-20 rule; 20 minutes of near work with 20 second breaks focusing on something that’s 20 feet away. This can be done with a timer, if possible, and give your children a target at the farthest point in the room by pinning or taping something very detailed so that it is interesting to the child and helps them keep their eyes focused.
*Reduce blue light exposure from digital devices a few hours before bedtime. If you’re not able to completely abstain from exposure then invest in good blue light reducing glasses.
The reason we want to reduce blue light exposure is to allow the pineal gland to get the trigger for melatonin production and help with circadian sleep patterns. The synthesis of melatonin is dramatically controlled by the light exposure to the eyes.
Let’s not forget about Diet!
Great energy boosters; good fats such as coconut oil, organic butter, ghee, olive oil as well as nuts and seeds, quality eggs and full fat dairy.
Also safer sugars including local honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar stevia, agave, and dried fruits.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are the natural blue light blockers in our eyes, and we get these carotenoids through our diet mainly through green leafy vegetables. Now we have some great supplements for kids and teens as well! https://www.jarrow.com/product/737/Lutein+_for_Kids
Variety is key and reintroduction of foods consistently helps with eating habits.
And remember if possible, eating as a family helps increase healthy habits early and having the dinner table as a “no digital zone” also helps prompt conversations about what foods we are eating, and how they may benefit our health and immunity.
Dr. Neda Gioia is an optometrist and the owner of Integrative Vision in Shrewsbury, NJ, where she offers adult and pediatric eye care as well as functional nutrition therapies. Learn more by checking out her website here!
Kids and Digital Eye Strain: Shrewsbury Optometrist//Fellow Ocular Nutrition Society// Dr. Neda Gioia Offers a Checklist