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All that screen time could lead to eye problems for your child

Heads up parents: kids are more likely to experience issues without noticing it.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Many kids will be doing some sort of virtual or e-learning this school year, which means hours more screen time.  

That's something doctors have been telling us for years to avoid, especially with younger kids. 

Dr. Samantha Roland is an ophthalmologist from Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital. She says there are two short term issues that too much screen time can cause. There is also one long term problem: nearsightedness.

We wanted to give parents a heads up on the symptoms to watch for.

School this year will be different, no matter how it happens, because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Regardless, kids will likely be on screens for hours at a time and then focused on activities like reading and homework.  

Dr. Roland says this slows down the blink rate. 

"That contributes to dry eye syndrome or dryness on the ocular surface and when they experience dryness you may see them blink a lot or roll their eyes around."

Also, kids tend to hold devices too close to their face. That causes their eyes to work very hard to focus. 

"It can cause eye fatigue later and it can also accelerate nearsightedness, the need for glasses as you get older."

So, what can you do if you notice your child doing these things? Dr. Roland has this advice. 

  • Take a quick break every 20 minutes. Take just 20-30 seconds to look away from the screen or book or even close your eyes.
  • Eye drops, like preservative-free artificial tears, can help with the dryness and hard blinking.
  • Warm compresses over the eyelids can soften the natural oils in our eyelids, so it coats your eyes better when you blink

Dr. Roland says nearsightedness or myopia is a growing problem in young people, likely because of all the screen time. 

So when should you see an ophthalmologist? If you tried everything from the breaks, to the eye drops and the compresses and your child is still struggling, you may want to make an appointment. Otherwise, your pediatrician should do a vision check at your child's yearly visit.

RELATED: How to keep your kid from forming bad habits during quarantine

RELATED: Keep your eyes protected during the COVID-19 pandemic

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