Digital eye strain a growing concern as children head back to school

New survey reveals Alberta parents could be doing more to protect their children

In addition to paper, pencils and binders, many back to school lists are starting to include laptops, tablets and other electronics. As children spend more time on digital devices at home and in the classroom, Alberta optometrists are encouraging parents to help protect their children from the effects of digital eye strain.

“We are seeing more children who are experiencing digital eye strain after using electronics for more than two hours at a time,” said Dr. Trent Allred, an optometrist in Sylvan Lake. “It’s caused by a number of factors, including staring at close-up objects for too long, a lack of blinking and exposure to blue light that’s emitted by electronics.”

The Alberta Association of Optometrists recently commissioned a survey to better understand children’s digital habits. According to the surveyed parents, Alberta elementary school age children spend an average of more than four hours a day using digital devices, while Alberta teenagers spend nearly eight hours a day using electronics.

While only 28 per cent of parents say their child experiences symptoms during or after using digital devices, Dr. Allred points out that those symptoms can be difficult to detect.

“Sometimes children complain of things like headaches, blurred vision and eye irritation after using electronics,” said Dr. Allred. “But many children don’t understand what they’re feeling, and end up with behavioural symptoms like irritability, poor behaviour and reduced attention spans, making it harder to pinpoint what’s causing the problem.”

Since 80 per cent of learning is visual, these symptoms have the potential to affect a child’s performance in school. Unfortunately, the survey revealed that 59 per cent of Alberta parents are not aware of or do not encourage their children to take steps during or after using digital devices to reduce the impact on their eyes. These steps include taking regular breaks, following the 20-20-20 rule by looking 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, not holding screens too closely, reducing overhead lighting and screen brightness and adjusting the positioning of their computers.

“The best way to prevent, treat and detect digital eye strain is through a comprehensive eye exam,” said Dr. Allred. “We can recommend customized solutions, based on a child’s digital habits, which may include computer glasses or simple day-to-day lifestyle adjustments.”

Dr. Allred says back to school season is a great time for parents to take their children for eye exams to ensure they have healthy eyes and clear vision before they get back in the classroom. The Alberta Association of Optometrists recommends that children have at least one eye exam between the ages of two and five, and yearly after starting school. Infants should have their first eye exam between six and nine months of age. Alberta Health covers the cost of annual eye exams for children up to age 19.

For more information, visit www.optometrists.ab.ca.

Just Posted

New Democrats would bring in $25 daycare if re-elected: Notley

Notley said the plan would include adding 13,000 daycare spaces

PHOTOS: Sylvan Lake’s curling rink a canvas during new event

The inaugural Paint the Ice event was held at the NexSource Centre on March 23

Sylvan Lake students demonstrate their knowledge of the Middle Ages

Grade 5 students from C.P. Blakely School held its annual Medieval Night, March 21

Condor School students purchase six Flags of Remembrance honour plaques

The Grade 7 students from Condor School raised money through hot dog lunches over the school year

Supporters rally for Jason Kenney as UCP leader stops in Red Deer

Kenney promises equalization reform, stopping ‘Trudeau-Notley’ payroll hike, trade, economic mobility

Edmonton judge rules Omar Khadr’s sentence has expired

Eight-year sentence imposed in 2010 would have ended last October had Khadr remained in custody

Sources say Trudeau rejected Wilson-Raybould’s conservative pick for high court

Wilson-Raybould said Monday “there was no conflict between the PM and myself”

Social media comments continue to dog ranks of United Conservative candidates

Eva Kiryakos was running in Calgary-South East in the April 16 vote

Apple announces its long-awaited streaming TV service

The iPhone has long been Apple’s marquee product and main money maker, but sales are starting to decline

Trudeau delivers campaign-style speech while introducing candidate Taggart

The Order of British Columbia recipient said she wants to be the people’s voice in Ottawa

15 Canadians on cruise ship that was stranded off Norway; one injured

The cruise ship was carrying 1,373 passengers and crew when it issued a mayday call on Saturday afternoon

Terror at sea: Helicopter rescues frightened cruise passengers in Norway

The Viking Sky cruise ship was carrying 1,300 passengers and crew when it experienced engine trouble

DOJ: Trump campaign did not co-ordinate with Russia in 2016

Attorney General William Barr said special counsel “does not exonerate” Trump of obstructing justice

Most Read