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Doctors seeing more eye strain, headaches as virtual learning leads to more screen time

Posted at 10:23 AM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-07 13:23:42-05

Many children are now schooling from home and their screen time is reaching pandemic proportions.

Between online learning and self-isolation, school-aged kids that are homebound are inevitably spending more time with their digital screens. And doctors say students are paying a price, citing an uptick in everything from eye strain to migraines.

"I feel that a lot of kids today have more dry eye,” said Dr. Kim Le, Pediatric Ophthalmologist at Henry Ford Health System. “They’re complaining that they’re blinking a lot, or I don’t know, their eyes are tired. Headaches as well.”

These digital bright lights are taking discomfort to new heights.

“Sometimes that act of focusing can cause headaches,” Le added.

Perhaps no one knows that more than Kelly Billings’ 8-year-old twins and her teenager.

“They have headaches, more often than they used to,” said Billings. “And randomly, eye pain, almost as if their eyes are straining.”

The Michigan mother is especially worried about her daughter, a regular migraine sufferer, who pre-pandemic battled a migraine every three months.

"But with virtual schooling, she has one at least every week,” said Billings. “I definitely know it affects her concentration.”

Trisha Rowe’s 8-year-old son, Vedder, is enduring the same battle.

"He will come up to me and say, 'mom, my head hurts here.' He says it feels like someone’s hitting his head."

Doctors say the best way to curb eye strain and headaches for children and adults alike is by adhering to the 20-20-20 rule.

How does it work?

Every 20 minutes take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away.

Trisha says her son’s school has been building in what they call “brain breaks” but she’s also doing her part, making sure his computer is eye level and that he has enough space so he can look away and do his work without staring at the screen.

But doctors say it’s hardly just about minimizing strain during school hours.

You can’t control what the teacher makes you, but you can control the screen time outside of school and additional screen time from TV watching, video gaming, and handheld device usage has made eye health far worse.

Here’s a Rebound Rundown on what you can do to help:

  • Limit your child’s screen time use by re-focusing their free time to more outdoor play and board games
  • Low light environments can help alleviate eye strain. Lower the brightness of the screen on your home TV, computer, and other digital devices
  • Encourage your child to eat, stay hydrated and get ample sleep- which helps minimize the severity of the symptoms

One more thing, encourage your child to hold any kind of digital media as far away from their face as possible. Eighteen to 24 inches is ideal.

This story was originally published by Ameera David and Tracy Wujack at WXYZ.